Geography, Earth and environment at Brighton

Rising sea levels threaten the South East

Rising sea levels and extreme weather events (storm surges, intense rainfall) are threatening to overwhelm coastal defences in the UK, according to research at the University of Brighton.

Dr Ward recently was interviewed for a BBC South East ‘Inside Out’ programme which focused on the threat to homes close to cliffs at Cuckmere Haven near Seaford.

Dr Raymond Ward, Principal Lecturer in physical geography in the School of Environment and Technology, said: ‘in the south east sea level is currently 21cm higher than in 1901 and is rising by 4mm per year, but predictions are that the rate of rise will increase over the next 20, 50 and 100 years’.

And he warned: “Climate change is exceptionally serious in the South East. If you get a big storm surge and the sea level is higher, it could overwhelm our current defences.”

Dr Ward said the rise in sea level in the south east was predominantly caused by climate change linked to an increase in methane and CO2: “They do an excellent job of trapping heat and that leads to the melting of glaciers and expansion of sea water as it gets warmer.”

Dr Ward is currently working on an international research project to protect Thailand’s coastal communities from natural disasters, which cause the loss 30 square kilometres of shoreline every year.

The £592,000 study will improve understanding of Thailand’s vulnerability to storms, floods and coastal erosion, which affect 17 per cent of the country’s population or more than 11 million people. He also works on projects related to the impacts of climate change on coastal areas in Brazil, Argentina, Estonia, Nigeria, Norway, Iran, and the UK.

For more on Dr Ward, go to:

Similar warnings were made in a recent BBC World Service interview with Paul Levy, Senior Lecturer in the University’s Brighton Business School, who focused on innovations in the digital world that offer alternatives to travelling to meetings.

In August he spoke at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on the 1.5 Degrees Report which highlights the difference between a 1.5 and 2 degree rise on global temperature: “At 2 degrees the planet will suffer significant negative change. If we can peg that rise back by just a half a degree, we can prevent a lot of that environmental damage.”

He also co-presented at a webinar on a research project for the University’s Centre for Research in Innovation Management (CENTRIM), and he is about to publish a book on the topic.

For more on Paul Levy, go to

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Stephanie Thomson • September 5, 2019

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