A fairly thrown-together article on flooding and climate change
Regardless of whether you’re a climate sceptic or fully paid-up member of the eco brigade, it’s been hard not to notice the weather recently. It seems as if perhaps the Mayans were right after all, and that we had better start building an ark pretty sharpish (although for less misogynistic purposes than the guy in the Lynx advert) if we are going to be able to survive the deluge. There have been evacuations and casualties. Train lines have been down, roads submerged, and houses severely damaged, so why not build a massive boat and rise above it all?
Amongst all of this mayhem it is hard not to ask whether the weather is getting more extreme, and if so, why? Despite the uncertainties inherent within climate science, hydrology and meteorology, it is abundantly clear that more and more of these extreme weather events are happening, and that they strongly correlate with rising emissions and temperatures, as well as wholesale alterations to poorly understood processes like the El Niño Southern Oscillation. Climate Change has not been blamed for these events outright but it is on everyone’s lips, and the Guardian, BBC and Welsh Secretary David Jones have all tentatively suggested the connection. In a recent study of British media representation of climate change and the weather, it was found that the media have a significant impact on perceptions, and has a mixed effect on genuine debate on the topic. The media undoubtedly influences our knowledge and ideas about climate change – it is not easy to avoid, especially in our technological age. Media in the last week or so has been heavily focussed, naturally, on the flooding tearing across large swathes of the country, but has seemingly forgotten about the climate talks currently underway in Doha, or indeed the connection between the two. It is becoming increasingly pressing that we find a new Kyoto Protocol, and act soon to cut global emissions. However, if the massive Fail of Copenhagen is anything to judge by (and it was even more cold and depressing up close, I promise), Doha looks condemned to a similar fate. Regardless of the carefully worded treaties or statements of intent that nations sign, it is unlikely that a replacement for Kyoto will be found, or that any significant, binding agreements will be made. In this climate it is unthinkable that the Coalition government are cutting funding for flood protection whilst continuing to throw money at Trident, arms and the MOD. People are in desperate situations, and this news is unlikely to bring any semblance of comfort. To top it all off, the agreement between the government and the Association of British Insurers runs out next year, and talks to renegotiate a new agreement are grinding to a halt. The collapse means thousands of people will be denied insurance and have to bear the costs of sorting out the damage of further flooding in the future, which the National Flood Forum deemed “outrageous”. It is obvious that politicians cannot see beyond the end of their noses, nor their terms in office, which makes this dire situation decidedly worse. But there is only so long that we can collectively ignore the signs.