Thanks to our London-centric media you may be forgiven for thinking the biggest threat facing our country is Brexit. This is simply not the case. The biggest threat facing us is climate change and the resulting increase in sea level. Over the last few years in Pembrokeshire we have observed some minor weather changes. The summers have got drier and hotter (hooray), and the winters have got wetter and stormier. Recent storms have led to significant erosion on the town’s South Beach. Anyone who doubts climate change is taking place need only walk across the beach to observe its impact.
So how will climate change affect Pembrokeshire and what can our government and we as individuals do to help mitigate the effects? One effect of the rising sea levels is the vulnerability of settlements based on or near the sea. Climate change is being taken seriously by Pembrokeshire County Council who has been consulting and developing plans to build a new road to bypass Newgale. The council has stated that if they were just dealing with the current situation they would simple continue digging out the shingle after bad storms. That approach is however not sustainable in the future. They plan to construct a new 30 million pound road in about ten years time. This is just the beginning. Even now increased erosion on Tenby’s south beach has started to threaten the town’s golf course. Future sea level rises due to climate change combined with stronger and more frequent winter storms will cause further damage. Not only the golf course is affected, any settlement at sea level is at risk including Tenby harbour and the Strand in Saundersfoot. The coastal road at Amroth is another site at risk.
What can our government and we as individuals do to help slow down the effects of climate change? The government’s policy is stated as being one of ‘managed retreat’. One way to slow down climate change is to reduce the amount of fossil fuel that is being burned. The main problem with relying on our government to take action is the short term nature of government. Elected representatives are not going to pass laws that force us to stop using our cars by putting up fuel prices or vehicle taxes as they know that such action will result in them being voted out of office at the next election. Better public transport needs to be part of the solution. Unfortunately we don’t appear to have joined up government in Wales. While the Welsh government is investing heavily in better bus (trawscymru) and rail services, Pembrokeshire County Council is conducting a consultation on reducing bus services to save money! The Welsh government has also missed the opportunity to vastly reduce pollution on the rail network. A new order has been placed to replace the ageing fleet of diesel trains with brand new diesel trains. In Germany brand new hydrogen powered trains are being introduced. These create no pollution at all as burning hydrogen produces only water as a waste product. By waiting a couple more years before placing the order for new trains Wales could have had a fleet of state of the art hydrogen powered trains producing zero pollution. A missed opportunity.
As governmental action is unlikely to make a significant impact, what can we as individuals do? By changing our lifestyle we can make a difference. Our carbon footprint needs to be significantly reduced. How often do you travel on a plane? This is one of the most polluting methods of travel. Think twice about all the foreign holidays requiring lengthy flights. With better summers being one result of climate change why not capitalize on this and holiday in the UK. Domestic tourism could be on the verge of a boom. Good news for Tenby. If you travel regularly by car consider using the bus or train instead. Both will reduce your carbon footprint. Everyone resident in Wales over the age of sixty is entitled to a concessionary bus pass giving free travel on all bus services and selected rail services mainly in North Wales but also including the Swansea to Shrewsbury Heart of Wales line. Using your concessionary bus pass you can travel from Tenby to Swansea for a day’s shopping free of charge by changing buses at Narberth and Carmarthen. An application for the pass can be obtained from Tenby Post Office. Use it or loose it as they say! A recent study has also revealed how much pollution is created by agriculture. It seems that cows in particular produce significant amounts of pollution. As a result it has been suggested that by avoiding dairy products we can help to reduce pollution. All food for thought. It must of course be said that to make a significant impact on slowing climate change everyone would need to take action. That of course is very unlikely which leads me to believe that climate change is inevitable. Future generations will be the ones who will have to pick up the pieces for the cost of our lifestyle.