The Much Ignored Threat of Flooding

As floods are wreaking havoc in Bavaria, the Czech Republic and parts of Austria, caused by exceptionally heavy rainfall, people are not making the obvious connection between the exceptional flooding and climate change.

Places like Prague are threatened with floods, and Prague has been a site of human settlement for more than a thousand years; historically humans do not build settlements on lands that are normally subject to flooding, or if they do those settlements tend not to prosper. In some cases, such as the Netherlands, people have successfully built in areas likely to flood, but have developed techniques to mitigate flooding Venice was built and tremendous expense on land that was occasionally flooded, and the city is now regularly flooded.

In London the Thames Barrier was built in 1982 to prevent parts of East London from suffering flood damage from storm and tidal surges. It was, when designed expected to be used every few years, on the basis that a dramatic flood event would not occur at intervals of about a thousand years. Its use has been far greater than expected when the Barrier was designed in the 1970s.

Indeed, the changes in weather, the rises in sea levels and the greater than predicted frequency of flooding has led to a new proposal for a second Thames Barrier to be built from Southend to Sheerness, a ten mile stretch of water. The existing Barrier is about halfway through its intended life span; it will provide some protection after 2030, but it seems clear that with the increased precipitation, the increasing violence of storms and the other likely effects of climate change, London will require a greater level of protection than the Thames Barrier can provide in the not too distance future.

A new barrier could also be a source of sustainable renewable energy, with turbines generating electricity through the tidal flows. As a capital project the benefits of a new Barrier would be, in my opinion, far more, both environmentally and to the United Kingdom, than a high speed railway line.

It is easy to close your mind to the threat that flooding brings, and to close your mind to the likelihood that much flooding is caused by the emissions of greenhouse gases that humans are pumping into the atmosphere. Generally, we are ignoring the threat of flooding; if we close our eyes and put our fingers in our ears the floods will still come.

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  2. […] The Much Ignored Threat of Flooding ( […]

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