It's 2063. You're not going to Skegness. It's too darn hot

Malcolm Smith on the impact of global warming on tourism

No wonder Skegness's Jolly Fisherman looks pleased with himself. Since 1908 he has endured being garbed in purple woolly jumper, red scarf and sou'wester. But soon he should be able to scatter the lot to the Lincolnshire breeze - thanks to global warming. A rise in average temperatures of 1C over the next few decades - and maybe as much as 4 or 5C - doesn't sound a great deal. But it would be more than enough to guarantee long, hot summers in Skegness every year.

The impact that global warming might have on Britain's tourism economy has been analysed in a report published by the Countryside Commission, written by Professor Keith Clayton and colleagues at the University of East Anglia.

First the report's hot statistics: this year's drought and that of 1976, estimated to be one in 357-year freaks, could happen every 14 years. That may be enough to encourage Brits back to homegrown coasts and countryside.

Too much sun poses health risks. That message was brought home in June by the sunbathers on a Hastings beach who fell asleep in temperatures over 26C and died from severe sunburn and dehydration. "As global temperatures rise," Professor Clayton says, "temperatures in the Mediterranean will be so high in summer that many people will find them unpleasant, especially if they take the health risk seriously."

But even in British resorts it won't be all sandcastles and sun. Sea levels are rising as ice sheets melt - maybe only by eight inches or so but accompanied by storms, giving our proms a greater battering. To make matters worse, beach levels are falling rapidly.Without topping up with vast and expensive amounts of sand - Bournemouth has done this twice - sunbathers could find themselves covered in factor 12 with nowhere to lie.

Elsewhere, too, our interference withnature isn't likely to be good news for the tourist trade. Winter snow in the Eastern Highlands will get increasingly unreliable. The report, however, predicts that Scotland's ski resorts will suffer, not from a paucity of snow, but from too much, bringing a greater risk of avalanches.

Back in lowland Britain, country walks in the guaranteed warmth of an English summer might reduce our guilt for polluting the atmosphere. Alas, no. Many ecologists think that the colour will be drained from our woodland walks as the toughies of the plant world - cocksfoot grass and dog's mercury for instance - outcompete snowdrops, celandines and bluebells.

If colour disappears from the ground, it might actually increase in the air, however, as gorgeous butterflies such as Camberwell beauties become more regular visitors and golden orioles and other birds rarely seen in Britain set up home here.

But don't get too excited. You might not get to see them. Remember 1976 with its water shortages and fires? Avid walkers found themselves denied access to huge tracts of hill moor and forest. Hill walking might become less popular, too, because of increasing summertime ozone, the result of sunlight reacting with vehicle exhaust gases.

In already wet Wales, locals and visitors alike would welcome a bit of ozone and sun, or so you might think. Not Dai Davies, who for 28 years has run the Glanrannell Park Hotel at Crugybar in Dyfed. "We get 55 inches here but we could do with more in summer," he says. Yes, more. "Our fishing rivers are low all summer. If we had more rain we could attract more guests for the fishing."

So, it seems there is scope for new marketing ploys in the warmer future. Follow Dai Davies' lead, perhaps, and market Welsh holidays in the rain, or all-night beach discos at Bognor. Even the chief of tourism in Skegness, Bob Suich, will have to stop selling tins of bracing Skegness air. Perhaps he could try Jolly Fisherman flipflops instead.

'Climate change, acidification and ozone: potential impact on the English countryside', available by post for pounds 25 plus pounds 2.50 p&p from The Countryside Commission, PO Box 124,Walgrave, Northamptonshire NN6 9TL.

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