Installed in 1982, the engineers behind its construction could not then have predicted the speed of climate change and questions are now being raised about the barrier’s long-term effectiveness.
Faced with climate change, the Thames Barrier has been erected as a symbol of resistance, protecting London from storm surges.
Activist Steve Lawrence, a big-picture architect, is concerned that not enough steps have been taken to relieve pressure on the barrier. According to him, “A strong storm in the North Sea could pose serious problems for us. I think the government should pay attention to this issue because it is a very serious problem. It is our last resort; if the barrier is not working properly or there is a problem, there is the potential for 50 square miles of London to be flooded…”
The barrier was designed to withstand occasional closures during storm surge, but the frequency of its activation has increased rapidly in recent years.
This has prompted the UK Environment Agency to update a plan to address the need to raise tidal defenses by 2050, 15 years ahead of schedule.
However, there are those who argue that the fact that the barrier is closed more regularly could endanger its maintenance and overall effectiveness. According to Luke Hanrahan of Euronews, “Experts have already raised concerns that the pace of decision-making on the future of the Thames Barrier is too slow. The evidence shows that sea levels are rising much faster than expected.” was originally anticipated when this barrier was built. And the likelihood of extreme weather events has increased as well.”
Professor Wouter Buytaert states that it “closes much more frequently than originally anticipated”. Furthermore, he points out that climate change is far more extreme than scientists expected at the time the studies that influenced the design of the Thames Barrier were conducted. Therefore, he suggests that these more extreme scenarios need to be changed and taken into account.
According to the environmental agency, the current plan is adaptive and considers a number of possible climate scenarios.
The final decision will be made before 2040 to ensure that the new Thames Barrier or an upgraded version is built and operational in time for 2070.
However, there are those who suggest that, given the rapidity of climate change, action be taken earlier to prevent the perfect storm from flooding London.
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