Newton Emerson: What can save Belfast in the face of rising sea levels?

City’s Harbour Estate, one-fifth of the conurbation’s surface area, is on reclaimed land

The city centre is built on notoriously infirm ground – the silty Belfast sleech. File photograph: Getty

The city centre is built on notoriously infirm ground – the silty Belfast sleech. File photograph: Getty

People in Belfast, in my experience, do not really think of themselves as living by the sea. They know the sea is there, and they may stroll along the newly developed waterfronts where the river Lagan approaches Belfast Lough, but intervening port and industrial areas disguise the fact the sea is right there, almost literally at the bottom of the High Street.

This may explain the muted reaction to this week’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on climate change – or perhaps it is simply too overwhelming and depressing to contemplate. The report’s most optimistic projection is for a 0.5m sea level rise plus heavier rain by the end of the century, with centuries of unavoidable sea level rises thereafter.

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