Swallowed By The Sea

For the best view of the next stage of the climate change debate, you need Mike Page's help.

CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips got a ride in his Cessna plane.

Page has been documenting what's been happening to his home turf. There's less and less of it.

The soft sand cliffs of certain parts of the coast have always been vulnerable to erosion and the government put in a system of sea defenses about 50 years ago to try to protect it.

For decades, with constant maintenance, it worked.

But with rising sea levels and rising costs, about 10 years ago, they gave up.

Page's footage, shot over the past several years, shows what happened.

"There must be 20 or 30 properties that have disappeared into the sea since 1995, I think," Page said.

Phillips walked along the edge of Diana Wrightson's property with her, asking: "This wasn't a seafront property in those days?"

"No, there was a road, and then there was a row of bungalows," she said.

Wrightson bought a guesthouse 26 years ago, ironically named Cliff House. Except it wasn't on the cliff then.

It is now. The original seaside road and houses are now in the sea.

"It goes so quickly," Wrightson said. "Once there's nothing to protect you the sea just races in. Can't believe it."

And it's racing faster and faster as the old sea defenses crumble. When a few more yards of cliff-face go - and they will - Diana will have to leave.

"The property is worthless. So I've nothing to sell, you know," Wrightson said. "I can't, if I walk away and leave it, that's the end of it. I walk away with nothing."

Much of the effects of climate change are couched in terms of "if" and "when." Well here, there is no "if." And "when" is now.

So choices are being made. It's called managed retreat. Some areas of coastline deemed indefensible are being abandoned.

Climate change is producing winners and losers and Wrightson and the others along the shore have already lost.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.