Sea level rise

Added on August 31st, 2020 by Lorne Smith
Posted in Conservationism


Sea-level-rise of one metre by 2100 is predicted by some computer models, which the alarmists say will mean some of our finest courses will be flooded. There are unfortunately some indications that those in charge of golf policy are being misled by this, so let us clarify the actual scientific facts on which FineGolf  feels policy should be based and from where the real threat is coming.

Eco-anxiety among children is being spread about an imminent end to the world from sea-level-rise. For golf this means the flooding of our finest golf courses, so it is worth us steadying ourselves by remembering the scientific facts.

In 2018 FineGolf exposed Natural England’s (NE) and Natural Resources Wales’s (NRW) threat towards the clubs of Royal North Devon (Westward Ho!) and Aberdovey/Borth & Ynyslas from their unhelpful policies. This in no small part is stimulated by the quangos’ belief that sea-level-rise is so catastrophic that it is a waste of time and money creating sea defences against the coincidence of the coordination of high-tide, storm-surge erosion and it is better to let the sea take the land back.

These quangos take no responsibility for the seashore but nothing legally can be done to protect some of our finest courses unless clubs gain their permission and they have actively stopped these clubs building sea defences. CLICK HERE to read the amazing full story.

With these historic courses and their vital economic tourist attraction under attack from these quangos, it is worth being reminded of the actual facts about the extent of sea-level-rise and whether we really are going to lose some of our finest running-golf courses if sensible action is allowed to be taken.

Land does rise and fall compared to the sea as a result of tectonic shifts in the earth’s surface, while Scotland is rising at about 1mm per year and south England has been subsiding, since the weight of the glaciers of the ice-age 10,000 years ago was lifted from Scotland. So if we are to adapt in our sea defence policy to sea-level-change it is best to measure local tide level trends.

We are fortunate in having accurate measurement of tide levels taken at a few harbours around the world since the nineteenth century. The graph below from North Shields in northern England shows a steady average sea-level-rise of around 1.9 mm per year or seven inches per century, which conforms to long term glacial changes and indicates no recent acceleration.

If one analyses a 50-year moving average, which scientifically is normally considered the more accurate way of measuring a trend, the average sea-level-rise trend at North Shields I am told has actually fallen since the 1940s. But to my simple eye, if you look at the graph since around 2000 the trend has gone sideways and is certainly in no way accelerating upwards as predicted by the alarmists based on computer modelling.

FineGolf therefore suggests that the correct policy for The R&A to adopt would be to encourage the construction of golf course sea defences where necessary and help adaption to the slow rise of sea level, rather than capitulate to the alarmist climate modelling theories and thereby play up to fashionable hysteria. One should not rely on the likes of the Climate Coalition nor of Prof. Piers Forster, who has recently joined Parliament’s Climate Change Committee, both of whom predict a metre sea-level-rise by 2100.

Scientifically there is no evidence to deduce that there will suddenly be a seven-fold increase from the steady rise over the past 130 years. This view is supported by numerous ‘experts’ including world leading climatologist Judith Curry, former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in her November 2018 report on sea level and climate change. Analytical comment on the latest BBC promoted study of catastrophy is HERE.

As ‘Global Warming’ increase was not predicted by the computer models to pause since the end of the 1990s, it is now called ‘Climate Change’, though, as greenkeepers know, weather has always changed unpredictably in GB&I.  Scotland, where The R&A resides, has had some increase in average precipitation since the 1980s. Nevertheless, in other regions of the UK there has been almost flatlining in rainfall levels since 1910, as shown below by the UK Met office graph.

Some areas are more prone to flooding than others and it is for government ministers downwards to give leadership and support the adaptive building of defences, rather than continually using the catch-all phrase ‘climate change’ amplified by the alarmist BBC, as a reason for flooding, and an excuse to do the minimum about those defences for which they are responsible.


Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), who do not seem to have quite the same approach as NE and NRW, (perhaps because golf tourism is seen as so economically important to Scotland) have invested in a detailed historical analysis of sea erosion around Scotland.

Interestingly their maps show that at ‘The Home of Golf ‘ where the Old Course and other St Andrews courses are sited on a shifting sand bar, the beach to the east of the New Course has over the past 120 years gained considerable land from the sea. The black dot line represents 1890, the yellow dot 1970, since when more land has been gained each year, and the green line 2017. At the north west there has been a small amount of erosion.

In southern England similar gains in land have occured. Burnham & Berrow and Rye golf clubs have created new secondary courses on land naturally given up by the sea in the last few decades.

Golfers should press for the environmental gain from conservation greenkeeping with its lower inputs and lower costs. At the same time they should be prepared for continual weather change as this has always occurred, while being sympathetic and supportive of our greenkeepers in that predicting the weather is the most difficult aspect faced by their profession. The use of the catch-all excuse of ‘climate change’ is not of help to them.

The finest, like David Coull of Luffness New, use the right conservation greenkeeping and hope for luck from the weather. Sometimes it works, at other times action has to be delayed.

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