Predictions that York’s most famous street will be flooded due to climate change are wide of the mark, says environmentalist Geoff Beacon
Climate change is worse than scientists have predicted.
The latest international report missed this year’s step change in floods, fires, heatwaves and hurricanes.
Governments are influenced by vested interests that want their profitable businesses to keep polluting the world so it’s good to see the Daily Mirror join the young people that are protesting for their future.
However, their picture of Shambles ankle-deep in water from sea level rise is as believable as the claims that The Sport used to make: A Second World War bomber found on the moon, or a London bus buried at the South Pole.
Nearly all of Earth’s ice is on Greenland and Antarctica. If it all melted it would raise sea level by over 70 metres and the top of York Minster would be over 20 metres below the sea.
But Antarctica has been covered in ice for 15 million years and Greenland’s ice sheet for almost 3 million years. These masses will only melt slowly.
There is a problem
However, because the mass of ice is so large, and the Earth is heating up rapidly, there is a problem. Mainstream scientists predict sea level rises of up to two metres by 2100, enough to put large parts of Hull under water.
The most prominent climate scientist, James Hansen, has suggested that sea-level rise of up to five metres is possible this century. He sees danger in the collapse of the western part of the Antarctic ice sheet.
A sea level rise of five metres would drown Hull, Goole and Selby but sea water would not drown York.
However, at high tide five metres becomes more than seven metres. Kings Staith, where the King’s Arms regularly floods, is seven metres above sea level – so the famous “York beach” might become a seaside beach.
But the main part of central York would be safe except if there are large storm surges.
Shambles stays dry – but…
The Mirror’s picture of Shambles being flooded with sea water as soon as 2070 is nonsense. (Even the large estimates of James Hansen have a rise of less than a metre in 2070.)
The stretch from the Minster to Shambles is one of the highest places in central York and the Shambles slopes down from 16 metres to 14 metres above sea level. A sea level rise of ten metres plus three meters at the highest tide would be needed to bring Shambles onto the shoreline.
There are places in central York that have large puddles of water in heavy rain, like in Parliament Street, as the ground subsides in places due to a falling water table (destroying important archaeological deposits).
Puddles do not form in the Shambles as it slopes downwards – and there is a further 4 metres drop down to where Walmgate floods, when the Foss overflows due to heavy rainstorms. Sea level won’t drown York until past the end of this century – but it might towards the end of the next.
It is the flooding due to increased rainfall that York should fear in this century – not the Mirror’s rising sea levels. As Leigh Wilks, president of York & District TUC recently noted:
York’s increasing problems with flooding – and the fact that the Vale of York is effectively one huge ditch – does not bode well for York’s future when climate change inevitably worsens in the coming years.
The threat due to flooding from York’s rivers is being taken seriously by the Environment Agency, who are raising the flood barriers on the Ouse and have upgraded the pumping station to pump water from the Foss into the Ouse.
But as the Earth warms these will be tested. I expect heavier rainstorms to cause trouble.
On the humanitarian side, should we start planning for refugees from Hull, Goole and Selby now?