International
Paul Harley

Climate change is eating England’s coast

A coastal village called Happisburgh is crumbling into the ocean, thanks to severe climate-driven storms.

The village of Happisburgh, on the east coast of the UK, is falling into the sea. Year-on-year the waves take meters more of the crumbly Norfolk cliffs; residents of the village have been watching this happen for decades. Those that grew up in the surrounding area are used to watching the changing of the landscape.

But now the sea is washing away people’s homes, roads, and will eventually take the village pub, the local church built in the 15th century, and the lighthouse if it continues at the current rate. The church, once a mile from the beach, is now a 150-yard walk from the edge.

The Norfolk cliffs have been eroding for the last 5,000 years, so the coastline has always had an ephemeral feel. Happisburgh is situated in a soft enclave between Walcott and Cart Gap, two other clifftop communities that have felt the benefit of funding from the government for concrete sea walls. But rising sea levels are accelerating erosion at Happisburgh, and future sea level rise and storm frequency due to climate change are likely to have profound impactson the town.

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