Part of the London Architecture Festival, the “Flooded London” exhibition by the Squint/Opera media house is a prophetic rendering of London in the year 2090 and the effects of global climate change, an issue that has permeated the public’s consciousness over the last 20 years. That awareness is in large part thanks to Hansen, who is trumpeted by many as the “Global Warming Prophet” for his 1988 testimony before congress where he warned that global warming is real, it is here and it is manmade.“Flooded London” depicts what life would be like in London years after the catastrophic rising sea ravaged the landscape. The stunning images actually show an almost utopian world where these people peacefully go about their daily lives in their new watery home. One picture shows two people fishing out of the side of a high rise building at Canary Wharf (above). Another shows a man about to dive off the ledge of the whispering gallery in St. Paul’s Cathedral, into the dimly lit pool. Yet another shows two men in a work shop fashioning together old bike and engine parts to make an electrical generator. The series seems to be as much about mankind’s resilience as it is about impending consequences yet when you listen to Hansen’s warnings it is hard to imagine bouncing back from the global cataclysm that Hansen predicts if we don’t act now. He cautions, “We’re toast if we don’t get on a very different path.”
20 years ago his warning was met with a wave of skepticism and started a debate that has raged on ever since. Today there is a consensus in the scientific community about the reality of global warming but some still try to spread doubt about it which Hansen likens to the Tobacco companies trying to deny the link between smoking and cancer.
Along with several of the world’s leading climate experts, Hansen has concluded that maximum amount of carbon dioxide the atmosphere can safely handle is 350 ppm (and it may be less) yet we are currently at 385 ppm and rising. Over the years we have felt the gradual effects of global warming, however we are now at a tipping point where if nothing is done to combat them, these effects are going to compound, accelerate and spin out of our control.
“Flooded London” is poignant yet beautiful visual display of a potential future that will not be so beautiful. As we are coming to realize now, we should have listened to Hansen 20 years ago, so maybe it would be wise to learn from our mistakes and heed his warning this time with urgency.