Scottish heritage and infrastructure is at risk of coastal erosion

£1.2bn worth of Scottish buildings, infrastructure and heritage may be at risk of coastal erosion by 2050, according to new research. 

By drawing together information collected from 2,000 maps and images and performing more than five million calculations, researchers at the University of Glasgow were able to show how Scotland’s coastline has eroded over the last 130 years and anticipate the pace and scale of change in the coming decades. 

The research demonstrates that coastal erosion is now affecting more of Scotland’s coast than was previously the case.

They also found that more of the coast is expected to be affected in the future and at a quickening pace, even if we can limit global greenhouse gas emissions.

brown mountain cliff beside of blue ocean aerial photography

Using this data, the researchers have developed a new map that can serve as a coastal change adaption planning tool for government, agencies, local authorities, communities and businesses. 

Based on evidence from the map, the Scottish government is encouraging local authorities to prepare coastal adaption plans, supported by £12m worth of investment. 

Net-zero secretary Michael Matheson said: ‘I welcome the publication of Dynamic Coast 2 map which shows us that at least £20 billion of assets, road, rail and residential property, lie within 50 metres of our coast.

‘With nature protecting some £14.5 billion of these assets, maintaining our natural coastal defences must be a key part of our resilience and adaptation strategies.

‘We are already locked into future sea-level rise and therefore we must plan for the worst-case scenario on the coast. Modelling suggests however that we will see erosion influencing the majority of shores this decade. The Dynamic Coast maps will be a valuable tool in our fight against climate change, and we are now preparing guidance to help local authorities produce new adaptation plans.

‘COP26 in Glasgow represents the world’s best chance – perhaps one of our last chances – to avert the worst impacts of climate change. However, even in the best-case scenario for global emissions reductions, it is clear that we must also be preparing for the impacts that are already locked in. By doing this we can deliver on the principles of the Paris Agreement with lasting action to secure a net-zero and climate-resilient future in a way that is fair and just for everyone.’

Photo by Mike Smith


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