As the floods across the north of England finally start to recede, the full extent of the devastation caused is becoming clearer. The Association of British Insurers has estimated that 27,000 homes and 5,000 businesses have been affected and that claims will exceed one billion pounds.
The floods were remarkable not just in the amount of damage caused but also because of the weather that lay behind them. In some areas, one sixth of the estimated annual rainfall fell in twelve hours – an already wet June, just got wetter.
It is not surprising, therefore that climate change has been mooted as possibly contributing to this environmental disaster on many environmental blogs. Meteorologist Nina Ridge, writing on the BBC website has said the following:
“A consequence of climate change is that we will see extreme weather patterns across the world. Clearly, it is impossible to link climate change to any one event. But there is no doubt that the globe is warming up and that at the same time we are witnessing severe weather across the planet.”
The case for global warming being at least partially responsible for the June flooding is further strengthened if we put it in the context of already unusual recent weather patterns. This year saw the second mildest winter since records began, whilst April has never been warmer. Severe floods have also become increasingly frequent in the past few years.
Perhaps these floods will make it even clearer that tackling climate change, reducing carbon emissions, and pioneering sustainable development are not matters of pure altruism, to do so is in our interest. It should certainly make us painfully aware, just as Hurricane Katrina did in the USA, that global warming will have a very real and tangible adverse impact on all our lives.
For more info about the negative effects of climate change, see the UN’s report about how desertification could displace up to two billion people and threaten international instability.