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Extinction Rebellion sails sinking house down river Thames
Photography Guy Reece, courtesy Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion sails a sinking house down the river Thames

The activist group’s latest action aims to draw attention to the disastrous reality of rising sea levels

Yesterday morning (November 10), Extinction Rebellion activists sailed a sinking suburban house down London’s river Thames, in an effort to draw attention to the reality of rising sea levels.

According to a press release, the action is “yet another attempt” by the group “to send an SOS to the government on climate inaction”, as well as depict the threat humans face from the climate crisis.

“As the ongoing flood disaster in Derbyshire and Yorkshire has so starkly illustrated,” the statement continued, “our homes, businesses, and families are at very real risk. We are watching, in real-time, as people’s lives are destroyed around the world and in the UK.”

The group’s action comes as almost 50 flood warnings have been put in place across England following days of persistent rain. 400 homes have flooded in Doncaster, while one woman was tragically swept to her death by a flooded river in the Derbyshire town of Matlock on Friday.

XR’s traditional brick house could be seen half-submerged as it floated down the Thames near Tower Bridge. Katey Burak and Rob Higgs, who built ‘The Sinking House’, said: “We want to respectfully raise awareness of the severity of the impending human-made disaster. We wanted to make something that people can visually connect to, whilst leaning on the government and the experts to make the changes that need to be made.”

Statistics shared by Extinction Rebellion say that sea levels are expected to rise from one to five metres by 2100. The group asserts that although the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests a rise of less than two metres, past assessments have frequently underestimated the pace of climate change. Ice sheets in Greenland are reportedly melting at a rate not predicted until 2070, with 140,000 tonnes of ice disappearing per second – the equivalent to 200 river Thames.

“The prime minister does not consider widespread flooding across the UK to be a national emergency. Extinction Rebellion disagrees” – XR

“We may be close to passing a tipping point for at least some of the large outlet glaciers draining the West Antarctic Ice Sheet,” Stephan Harrison, head of the climate expert committee, said, “and this would commit us to significant sea level rise whatever we decide in terms of reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”

Based on current sea level rise projections, Stratford, Barking, and Dagenham would all be underwater by 2050, as well as large areas of south and west London, East Anglia, Essex, and Kent. 

“The prime minister does not consider widespread flooding across the UK to be a national emergency,” XR said. “Extinction Rebellion disagrees. Many people in the UK have had life-changing experiences this week, and there will be many more in low-lying and coastal areas affected by flooding over the coming winter.”

“We stand in solidarity with all of those who have lost their homes and livelihoods and will continue to demand action until the severity of this national and global emergency is realised.”