Climate Change Poses a Particular Threat to Portsmouth

A leading Portsmouth environmentalist has spoken out about concerns for our city following the premier of a new film by Sir David Attenborough. Peter Gruner reports.

A Life on Our Planet, which deals in part with climate change, was shown for one night only on Monday 28th September at Vue cinema, Portsmouth. The University of Portsmouth’s Steve Fletcher – Professor of Ocean Policy and Economy, and Director of Sustainability and Environment research – said that climate change is a major issue for the city.

‘Portsmouth is under threat from climate change although this is not unique,’ he said. ‘In the UK, most cities are located on estuaries and all estuaries in the south of the British Isle will experience some sea level rise for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, Portsmouth will experience more rise than most due to the legacy of the ice age.’

Prof Fletcher said that Portsmouth City Council is working on improving the city’s sea defences and much of the city is already protected. However, he added that one of the side effects of climate change will be greater variation of conditions, including more intensive rainfall and greater storminess, therefore the protection of the city will be an ongoing concern. ‘We’ve had three storms for example in the past month. That’s quite unusual. The chances of an extreme weather event breaching our sea defences will probably increase in the future as the more severe effects of climate change increase.’

The University of Portsmouth is currently working on various environmental projects. For example, its scientists have engineered an enzyme which can digest some of our most commonly polluting plastics.

Prof Fletcher said, ‘This may provide a solution to one of the world’s biggest environmental problems. The discovery could result in a recycling solution for millions of tons of plastic bottles which currently persists for hundreds of years in the environment.’

He would like to see less devotion to car travel and more use of public transport. ‘Portsmouth is quite a flat city and ideal for cyclists,’ he added. ‘Let’s have more cycle tracks and more people on their bikes.’

In his 94 years, Sir David Attenborough has visited every continent on the globe, exploring the wild places of our planet and documenting the living world in all its variety and wonder. In the film, he reflects upon both the defining moments of his lifetime as a naturalist and the devastating changes he has seen. You can find out where to see future showings of the film here.

Image by Tommaso.sansone91 entitled ‘Climate change adaptation is a response to global warming that seeks to reduce the vulnerability of social and biological systems to relatively sudden change and thus offset the effects of global warming’ used under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication licence.