South of the River – Once in a flood


Compass-SouthComment logo 2It’s been a bit wet and windy lately, but I’m glad I don’t live on the west side of the country.

I actually heard someone use the expression “Once in a flood” yesterday. They had to correct themselves “Oh no, that could be tomorrow”. This year was the wettest January on record and will probably be the wettest winter on record. The storms have come one after another, queuing up in the Atlantic to dump their rain on the British Isles, like aircraft waiting to land at Leeds Bradford airport.

I do feel sorry for all those people on the Somerset Levels. I say “all those people”, but I discovered yesterday that there are ‘only’ 40 properties flooded there. It’s bad, but they’ve been front page news for weeks and they’ve had visits from the Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales (a fate I wouldn’t wish on any community, but let’s not go there).

Paul Hudson, the BBC’s Look North weatherman did some very useful digging on his blog.  Keep in mind that figure of 40 properties in Somerset, 688 properties in Yorkshire were flooded during the coastal surge event in December last year and over 23,000 (again just in Yorkshire) in the floods of June 2007.

The water has stayed a very long time on the Levels, that must be worse right? I’m not sure, I saw this first hand report from someone who was flooded for less than a day, but it took 15 months to get the house sorted out. Unless it damages your foundations, I’m not sure how much more damage a month long flood can do.

The press tend to go away and leave you at about the same time that the water leaves. So long as there is a flooded road, soldiers and sandbags around the press will keep snapping away. The pictures are spectacular and I look at them like everyone else. The long months afterwards are rarely documented.

I heard yesterday that the residents of Toll Bar in Doncaster who were flooded in 2007 spent eighteen months in static caravans while their homes were sorted out. Interestingly the Council rigged up a makeshift laundry in a portacabin for them and this rapidly became the centre of the community. There’s nothing like a crisis to bring the community together.

I wrote in January about how the news agenda works. Good photo opportunities also push stories to the top, or “above the fold” in journo-speak. Politicians then have to react to the big stories of the day. That’s just how it works.

What doesn’t have to happen is that the politicians don’t have to rubbish the years of work that government scientists have put it to understanding the weather, rain catchment areas and flood defences. I don’t know whether two rivers in Somerset should be dredged or not, but I do know I’d trust a scientist over a politician, especially one who says climate change doesn’t exist.

Nigel Lawson’s comments this week just prove he doesn’t understand how science works. You can’t prove a scientific theory, you can only disprove it and you do that be looking at the evidence. The evidence currently points overwhelmingly to man-made climate change being the cause of much of the extreme weather we’ve experienced over the last few years.

There are some facts. The average temperature of the planet has increased. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased. Since the industrial revolution, we have created much more carbon dioxide than we did before. Warmer air has more energy, producing stronger winds and carries more water, producing more rain.

Lawson says you can’t link a particular event – these floods – to climate change. Well no you can’t, but you can say the increasing number of extreme weather events fits the theory of climate change like fingers fit a glove.

We all need to take measures to cut our carbon emissions. I’m currently looking at ways to insulate my house better. But we are running out of time and we need bigger actions. We need the government to take action and invest properly in green energy technologies. Instead they invite in the frackers. I don’t know if fracking cause earthquakes, I’m pretty sure it pollutes the water system and I know it only produces more gas to burn to create more carbon dioxide.

Jeremy Morton Aug13So as well as being glad live on the east side of the Pennines, I’m glad I live on a hill.

I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.