Blog : Climate

Adapting to flood risk in a changing climate

Adapting to flood risk in a changing climate


University Professor Dr. Chris Skinner forecasts the floods of tomorrow. His work at the University of Hull looks at the conditions which cause flash floods, and since 2014, he’s run SeriousGeoGames – a project which uses virtual reality and gamification to let people understand flooding and the complex decisions which go into protecting against them.

Chris argues coastal cities in particular must respond to increasingly extreme weather conditions – and he is a firm believer that we must do more to live side by side with the sea. He is however skeptical that Hull will one day be underwater, pointing to the IPCC’s predictions that sea-levels will rise just 1m in the next 80 years.

SeriousGeoGames
SeriousGeoGames: Flash floods

Across the globe, extreme weather and flooding is increasing and this summer’s tenth anniversary of the devastating floods across much of the UK, act as a stark reminder. In Hull alone, three people were killed and over 10,000 homes and businesses were evacuated. Most of the city’s schools closed down and residents were forced out of their homes for months and, in some cases, years.

Our approach to flooding, and the steps we take to protect against it in the future, is now critical. The UK government’s review of flood resilience highlights the need to build new towns and cities with inbuilt flood defences such a sea walls. Yet towns such as Pickering in North Yorkshire contradict this approach – successfully withstanding major regional flooding in 2016 using natural protections such as ‘leaky dams’ made of logs and branches.

In Aarhus, Denmark, climate change is also on the agenda. On a recent trip to the city, Signe Marie-Iversen from the Center for Environment and Energy, shows us a satellite map of Aarhus on which she has cryptically written in biro: ‘100-years incident in 2050’.

Aarhus docklands
Aarhus docklands at night

Large areas on the map are marked in pale blue: the river valley west of the city centre, the well-to-do suburbs of Vejlby-Risskov to the north – indicating predictions for flooding in the case of extreme rainfall. The city’s new waterfront developments, including the landmark Iceberg building, are marked in pink: at risk of flooding due to storm surges.

Signe seems sanguine about the potential impact on the city of a ‘one in a hundred year’ event, and well versed in the complexity of balancing the practical needs of the city with the increased risk of flooding as the climate changes.

This month, a £14m project was announced in Hull that works with the environment to protect against flooding. The project, which uses drainage lagoons and aqua storage systems to store excess water, offers the best hope yet that the devastating floods of 2007 are not repeated.

Whether nature offers the best protection against flooding, or man made defences, such as higher levees and sea walls – it’s clear that more urgency is needed when it comes to adapting to the new reality of our global climate.

 

Watch Chris’s interview

 

Image credits: Creative Commons, David Finch / Flickr and Søren Rajczyk, Flickr

Have your say and follow the conversation using the hashtags #its2097 and #expertinterview

 

What’s next for a sustainable economy?

What’s next for a sustainable economy?

Donald Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement this month could be the most harmful decision to the future of our planet, ever.

His intention to resurrect the United State’s old industries of mining and coal has brought widespread condemnation from business leaders and oil giants alike. Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said that the withdrawal was “bad for the environment, bad for the economy and it puts out children’s future at risk”.  This was echoed by Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, who condemned the President’s move in his first ever tweet.

Potentially turning the clock back decades on environmental policy, what does Trump’s decision mean for the future?

As part of the research for our upcoming sci-fi films imagining life in 2097, we spoke to university professor David Gibbs about the challenge of reconciling global industry and consumption with the need to live sustainably.

David argues that sustainable economies depend on transformations at every level: from government policy  to local networks and ‘green entrepreneurs’ such as the UK farmer who transformed his farm to grow crops for eco-friendly building materials. Ideas such as the ‘steady state’ economy and the ‘circular’ economy – championed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – seek to accelerate this transformation.

 

steel_circular_economy

 

David points to these and to the development of renewable energy, like the gigantic Siemens factories in both Hull and Denmark – producing 75 metre long rotor blades for wind farms in the North Sea – as showing promise that sustainable thinking is now going mainstream.

He frames the challenge today as one of imagination and re-invention.
Can we transform industry to meet our appetites for consumption in a way that is sustainable?

 

Watch David’s interview

 

Have your say and follow the conversation using the hashtags #Its2097 and #ExpertInterview