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The Bulletin

U.K. cedes swath of land to sea in hopes of greater flood protection

Posting in Environment

Giving up its manhood. The UK will allow the English Channel to flood part of the Manhood Peninsula near Portsmouth.

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If the fight against global warming were conventional warfare, then what's happening right now on a stretch of British coast could be considered a form of tactical withdrawal.

Environmental authorities have given up a swath of land in the south of England to the sea, moving their defenses against the English Channel 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) inland.

"The project is billed as the country's largest ever coastal flood realignment scheme," reported the BBC. "It has required the destruction of the existing sea wall ... and giving back to the sea some of the land nearest to the coast."

The U.K.'s Environment Agency has spent £28 million ($45 million) to build 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) of new sea walls on the triangular Manhood Peninsula, where holiday resorts have flooded several times in recent years and where rising seas threaten homes and businesses in nearby areas including Portsmouth and Southampton.

The chance of a flood is now considered to be one in one thousand years.

"In the past we have been very close to flooding, and now we've got a one-in-one-thousand year protection, one of the best in the country actually," the manager of Medmerry Park holiday village told the BBC.

By punching a hole in the previous sea wall, the Environment Agency is also creating new wetlands to the benefit of migratory birds and other wildlife.

"Certainly the habitat we are creating here is important to the broader ecosystem and the broader economy of the country by encouraging people to visit remote areas," said Andrew Gilham, the Environment Agency's flood and coast risk manager.

In baseball terms, the U.K. has ceded a walk to prevent the big home run in its fight against climate change, which has taken an early 1-to-0 lead. We'll probably have to go into extra innings to see who wins in the end.

Photo of Manhood Peninsula is from Grzegorz Petka via Wikimedia

— By on November 3, 2013, 8:42 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure