Rising sea levels and the future of British coastal cities

The Attack scenario in Hull - a new relationship with water

The Attack scenario in Hull - developing a new relationship with the sea

A new report from Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) looks at the effect of a 1.9m sea level rise – a worst case scenario predicted by scientists if nothing is done to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and global ice sheets begin to break up – on Hull and Portsmouth.

The report entitled Facing up to Rising Sea Levels: Retreat, Defend, Attack? outlines three scenarios:

Accept that parts of the cities will be under water and moving critical infrastructure and housing.
Are we prepared to do this? Large tracts of the south and east coasts of Britain are threatened. Where will everyone go? What will the loss of arable land do to our food security?

Build extensive flood defences to protect the city.
Are we prepared to spend the money? Our current annual flood defence spending is £500m. It is estimated that it needs to increase to £750m just to maintain design-specification levels of protection.

Living on the water by building stilted and floating structure.
Waterworld. The report envisions a new relationship with water with infrastructure being moved onto decommissioned oil platforms and retro-fitted naval vessels. This scenario is similar to another visualisation noted on our sister blog – Water, water, everywhere – the impact of rising sea levels on coastal cities.

Download the report here.

Maybe it’s time to become serious about reducing carbon dioxide emissions. How about a global summit?

Other resources:
– Useful explanation of the different types of flooding

– The Environment Agency is responsible for England and Wales’ flood defences. Here is a brief outline of what they choose to defence and why, whilst here is more detail from DEFRA, including an assessment of funding requirements for the next 25 years.

– A piece on the Netherlands’ experience, which suggests interestingly that the Dutch are psychologically more open to an Attack response.



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