Mevagissey Parish Council has declared a Climate Emergency, fully supporting Cornwall Council's plans for Cornwall to be carbon neutral by 2030. This group hopes to support the council in making changes that will help protect Mevagissey from the impacts of climate change, and design strategies to reduce the village's carbon footprint. We aim to spread awareness of the impacts climate change will have, and stimulate residents to get involved and contribute ideas for Mevagissey's future.
What is a climate emergency? - It is a response to the warning from the Inter-governmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) that we need to act by 2030 in order to prevent run-away climate change. Many experienced people in Mevagissey say that the predicted effects have been seen before and represent no fear. They perceive no significant change in the climate or the state of the sea. We all know that weather and tides behave differently in different places. What may happen in eastern-facing places in Cornwall may be wholly different to the experience on the north Cornwall coast let alone in far-away New Orleans. And the potential impact may not be felt in our lifetimes. That is part of the problem with climate change – both the impact and the progress are just beyond our own level of urgency. Climate scientists using sophisticated climate models at Exeter University, the Met. Office and in the IPCC believe that the process is set in train and we have only a few short years to prevent global warming from reaching a tipping point.
What is the local evidence? - Let’s look closer to home. Sea level records at Newlyn show that in the last century, sea level rise has been eight inches and wave heights have also increased. Sea levels are projected to rise by at least the same amount in the next sixty years. This inexorable rise in sea levels comes from melting glaciers and higher temperatures which swell the sea volume. We often refer to slow change as ‘glacial’, meaning that there is no discernible change in a lifetime. But, right now, three of the world’s large glaciers melt away completely every year. The UK Climate Change Impact Programme (UKCIP) predicts extreme sea levels (spring tides, storm surges etc.) will be experienced more often and storm frequency is expected to increase. Tourism may benefit but not all the predictions of global warming just mean sunny and warmer summers here in Cornwall.
What will be the impact? - Farming practices and crop yield will change. New crops will be grown and familiar fish will disappear from the menu to be replaced by warmer water species. It will be possible for vineyards to grow the grapes we prefer, like Chardonney and Pinot Nior. In the long term, crustaceans such as shrimp, and molluscs including sea scallops are likely to suffer through increased acidity of the seas. The personal impact of this means that some homes will be flooded more often - The National Trust believe managed retreat may be the only solution for some low lying areas like Marazion. The Environment Agency has no plans for sea defences in low-lying areas like Portmellon and Mevagissey – they believe in managed retreat and ‘holding the line’ with limited budgets being allocated on the basis of population density. Changes to rainfall pattern will add to this effect. The number of devastating flood events in Europe has more than doubled over the past 30 years. Projections suggest this trend will continue, with effects exacerbated by climate change.
What can we do? - We have set up a working group in Mevagissey to look at what difference we might make either to prevent the worst effects or mitigate them. Cornwall Council is also making plans with the same objective and there will be measures we may be able to implement or benefit from. We want to hear from local community groups about how we can all contribute and prepare for the issues our children and grandchildren will face.