Yesterday the Guardian claimed an exclusive for the story that “Bude in Cornwall awarded £2m to fight climate threat”.
Apparently the National Lottery “is distributing £100m over 10 years across the UK to local climate action groups”. One of those local climate action groups is the Bude Climate Partnership, whose website tagline is “Working on positive climate-change projects to future-proof the Bude area”. The problem is, on looking at the projects they refer to, we find that they are almost all about education and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the locality – things like a community carbon audit; transport study; sustainable tourism audit; climate impact study; climate-resilient catchments project; reaching older generations study; the library of things; the physical hub project; a community climate change festival; and connecting with our community (“to succeed in our mission of becoming carbon neutral by 2030”).
There’s a small problem with all this. Auditing the emissions of the Bude area, holding festivals, lending and borrowing things instead of buying them, trying to make tourism (on which Bude depends heavily) “sustainable”, asking older people to educate younger people as to how to live a simpler less carbon-intensive life, etc, will make absolutely no difference whatsoever to the climate, or to the alleged climate change from which Bude is supposedly suffering (‘We’re the UK’s Maldives: idyllic and beautiful, but facing an existential and imminent threat to our way of life due to climate change’ according to the Guardian, quoting Robert Uhlig, the founder and programme director of the Bude Climate Partnership). Even if every locale and organisation in the UK reduced its emissions to zero, it would make no meaningful difference to global emissions, and no difference to the climate. For that to happen, as a minimum, the rest of the world would have to follow suit, but it isn’t. This sort of thing is hubris of the highest order (as well as being a waste of National Lottery money, and let’s not forget that the National Lottery represents a voluntary indirect tax on the poorest in society, since they tend to be the people who are sufficiently desparate as to spend quite a lot of money on the lottery in the misguided hope that it is the answer to their financial problems).
We aren’t supplied with a detailed breakdown regarding the £2M grant made to Bude and eleven surrounding parishes, but we are told that £750,000 of it “is being targeted at making tourism more sustainable within Bude”. Given that the grant has apparently been awarded “to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change”, that sounds to me like a misuse of the funds, since using the money in that way will make no difference to Bude’s climate (mitigation) nor will it provide adaptation in the face of “the intense heat this summer to flooding, and tidal changes” (sic).
No evidence was provided in the article to back up the claim that Bude is under threat from tidal changes, though I accept that it may be, since sea levels are indeed rising. However, in order for that to be the result of climate change, an accelerating trend of sea level rise would have to be demonstrated, and in the area round Bude I have found no such evidence. Unfortunately I haven’t found any long-term tidal data for Bude, but data is available for other places along the Cornish coast and around the Severn Estuary.
The National Tidal and Sea Level Facility offers up the ten highest tides recorded at various sites (but regrettably ceasing in December 2012, for some reason), such as Newlyn and Ilfracombe. In the case of Newlyn, it is difficult to discern a rising trend, never mind an accelerating one, with 2012 tides featuring in fifth and ninth place, while top spot goes to 2004, second place being in 1985, and even 1948 featuring in fourth place. As for Ilfracombe, a similar picture emerges, with 2012 tides featuring in sixth and tenth places, the winner being 1985, second place going to 1997, and third place being 1989.
However, it must be conceded that this data doesn’t cover the last ten years. To try to rectify that lacuna, I turned instead to the website of the National Oceanography Centre Permanent Service For Mean Sea Level. This also offers up tidal information for Ilfracombe, and this appears to show – if anything – a decline in sea level since 2012. Unfortunately the detailed graph for a newish station at Port Isaac ceases in 2015, but it doesn’t appear to show any increasing trend. As for Newlyn the sea level is clearly rising, but it is difficult to discern an accelerating trend.
There are other stations in the general area. St Mary’s, in the Scilly Isles, seems to have peaked around 2002 and to be declining since then. Devonport doesn’t seem to be showing higher sea levels than back in the late 1980s, and on the other side of the Severn Estuary from Bude, Mumbles (regrettably ending in 2014) doesn’t seem to show any discernible trend.
In order to spice up the story, the Guardian refers us to the awful story of the tower – “Bude’s 186-year old storm tower, which sits on the edge of a crumbling coastline, is one of the first structures in the UK that is being moved because of the impacts of climate change.”
Helpfully the Guardian links to the local newspaper website which provided this dramatic story. The irony here is that the story provides evidence, not of recent man-made climate change, but of cliffs that have been eroding for some considerable time. What we learn, on reading as far as the Devon Live sub-heading, is that this is the second time that the tower has had to be moved to protect it from “climate change” and coastal erosion. When was the first time? Surely it must have been fairly recently, given that the “climate crisis” is itself a recent phenomenon? Well, not exactly – last time was 142 years ago, in 1881, just 45 years after it was first constructed at Compass Point.
A slightly different sequence of events is told at the Folly Flaneuse website, but not so different as to affect the basic point:
Overlooking the sea at Bude, in Cornwall, stands an elegant little tower. It was first built in the 1830s, but after being battered by the elements it was rebuilt a little inland fifty years later.
In other words, nice try Guardian, but this story doesn’t begin to back up claims of Bude being affected by a new “climate crisis” involving coastal erosion – rather the coast is continuing to erode just as it has done for a long time. It is also difficult to see that the National Lottery money is going to make much difference to anything. Perhaps there are some practical mitigation projects that I have overlooked, but the bulk of the projects appear to me to be little more than yet more net zero propaganda and ineffectual hand-wringing.