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Journal Articles Total Environment Research Themes Year : 2023

Climate change and rivers: The promise offered by infrastructure


As a material artefact, infrastructure also exists by virtue of the interactions of humans, and both human and non-human (technical/infrastructural artefacts) entities. Lying at the intersection between human and non-human entities, infrastructure serves to illustrate how stakeholders understand their environment and try to manage/dominate it. Rivers, and in particular large rivers, are used for a number of anthropogenic purposes (drinking water supply, energy generation, river transport, etc.); they are often heavily exploited. As such, they no longer are simply natural artefacts, but rather super-infrastructure, supporting numerous engineering works and activities. Two case studies are presented in this article: new projects of piping and storing water on Seine; solutions proposed to fight against low flows on Rhine. They illustrate two possible aspects of the impact of climate change and the way in which human communities plan to adapt in coping with both low flows and flooding. In each case, the desire to preserve as much as possible of the existing situation, the so-called “business as usual”, and not call into question the functioning of socio-technical systems has prevailed. This article shows that whatever the configuration of the hazard (low flows or flooding, which is more widely addressed in the scientific literature), the preferred solution is primarily based on hard infrastructure, which gives the impression to public authorities and businesses (impacted by hazards or taking advantage of the river) of being able to mitigate the problem encountered by countering the force of nature.

Dates and versions

hal-04208072 , version 1 (15-09-2023)



Julie Gobert. Climate change and rivers: The promise offered by infrastructure. Total Environment Research Themes, 2023, 8, pp.100077. ⟨10.1016/j.totert.2023.100077⟩. ⟨hal-04208072⟩
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