Deep Sea Rising

Screenshot 2020-06-16 18.50.56

This is a guest post as part of our Extreme Weather Stories series by Whabb Studio, a creative collective based in Wandsworth. Find them on Twitter @whabbstudio

Deep Sea Rising is a 360 video that investigates what rising sea levels could entail for the future of Nine Elms topology and alludes to the ancient story of Atlantis. The creative collective have taken inspiration from their local surroundings along the River Thames. The work shares research and statistics with the viewers and sees computer generated imagery and deep sea noises submerge the environment. It aims to mobilise conversations in the community. Deep Sea Rising was created for WAF In Your Living Room Festival 2020 and was kindly supported by Wandsworth Council.

To watch the video go here

Transcript of the piece


Plato’s 2300+ year old fable, Atlantis, portrays an ancient city, known for its advanced wisdom, submerged by the ocean. The story of Atlantis has been theorised and mythicised; but Plato concluded that ‘both wealth and concord decline as possessions become pursued and honoured. And virtue perishes with them as well.

What is happening?

Starting at the dawn of the industrial era, a 2 degree rise in global average surface temperature has resulted in a significant increase in accumulated heat. The extra heat is responsible for regional and seasonal temperature extremes, resulting in the reduction of snow cover and sea ice, increased heavy rainfall and the change of vital habitats for living organisms.

Between 1901 and present day, global sea level rise has increased at an accelerating rate.

A study from the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council in 2018 found that hydrological events and incidence of floods have increased fourfold since 1980 and twofold since 2004.

Climate change is causing sea levels to rise due to thermal expansion and ice melting.

NASA states, more than 90 percent of Earth’s trapped heat is absorbed by the oceans causing ocean temperatures to rise and water to expand. This has caused roughly one-third of the global sea-level rise since 2004.

Ice loss has been the largest contributor to sea-level rise during the past few decades, and will continue to contribute to rising sea levels even if carbon emissions are slowed. NASA also states, if all glaciers and ice sheets on the planet were to melt, the average global sea level would rise by more than 60 meters.

Organisations’ responses to the issue

The Paris agreement is a global framework set up to stop temperature rising beyond a further 2°C (The target being 1.5 C). There has been some progress, however not enough as Climate Analytics states governments drift towards 3°C of warming. The US, the second largest contributor to global warming, has announced their intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement.

On 17th July 2019, Wandsworth Council declared a Climate Emergency, setting a target to be a carbon neutral organisation by 2030.

In order to stay within the advised carbon budget, Wandsworth will have to swiftly switch from fossil fuel use to reach zero carbon or near zero carbon no later than 2043.


In 2017, the UN Ocean Conference stated almost two-thirds of the world’s cities with populations of over five million are located in areas at risk of sea level rise. In London, 1.25 million people live and work in areas of tidal and fluvial flood risk.

The Thames Estuary 2100 plan aims to protect 1.3 million people as well as £275 billion worth of property and infrastructure from increasing difficulties such as population growth, aging flood defences and climate change.

Nine Elms currently depends on London’s flood defences.

Urban pluvial flooding is caused by intense and/or prolonged rainfall overwhelming the capacity of drainage systems. The problem is exacerbated in London because its built on impermeable London clay.

Infrastructure is in place to take into account the risks of flooding in London. The Thames Estuary 2100 adaptive plan takes into account a series of 10 indicators including; sea level rise, increased storminess, sea surge height and a range of socio-economic indicators including riverside growth and development. Raising the defence heights and new infrastructure will be necessary in the future and the plan will require collaboration between communities and local boroughs.


Research from Grantham Institute indicates that the effects of global warming frequently exacerbate the impacts of existing inequality. Sea level rise, drought, air pollution and ecosystem degradation can lead to a variety of significant health impacts, affecting both the incidence of chronic conditions and the spread of infection.

There is a very real and serious impact of flooding on mental health. In many cases the physical and mental health impacts of being flooded can last for many years.

Public Health England studies, 2017, have shown people who were flooded were approximately 6–7 times more likely to have depression, anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a year on than those not affected by flooding.


Wandsworth aims to be one of the ‘greenest’ inner city London boroughs, with parks, open spaces and private gardens covering 40 percent. Enable Leisure and Culture, a not-for-profit organisation, found there has so far been a total of 1,600 different species recorded within 27 different habitat types in the borough. Flooding caused by rising sea levels could pose a threat to the local wildlife.

Biodiversity is at risk of decreasing dramatically as species face conditions they have never experienced before and are pushed past the threshold of their limits and outside of their niches.

Promoting greening within the urban environment is a great way for individuals and groups in the community to help reduce flood risks and increase species habitats. An example of this is de-paving and replacement with permeable materials such as soil.


Awareness of the different ways in which sea level rise could impact the community and our future environment is necessary. It is to be hoped that Plato’s fable is not a foreshadowing of the future World and instead is a message to value the riches of the earth.

Research references are here

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