Sleepwalking to Catastrophe – Again!

Over the past five plus years governments everywhere have been belt-tightening to counter the effects of the 2008-2009 recession. The result was less money for infrastructure to combat climate change.

In England, the Environmental Agency, a state organization independent of the Government of the day, has the responsibility to develop defences against flooding.  It published its first national assessment of flood risk for England in 2009. The foreword included these assurances:

“While celebrating the advances that this report provides, it is important to remember that the technology and   skills available to map and measure risk are still developing. Rising sea levels and increasingly severe and frequent rainstorms caused by climate change mean that the risk of flooding will increase. This assessment is one step in an ongoing journey that we must take to ensure that our understanding of the risks keeps pace with these changes. It will be regularly updated, improved and published to keep you informed and to help us work together to manage floods.”

The photo shows the extraordinary weather systems blanketing the Atlantic ocean that were responsible for extreme weather in England. We have described how the record breaking downpour of the last three months produced heavy floods.  The Environment Agency could not manage the floods caused by this heavy, unexpected rainfall.

Opposition leader Ed Miliband of the Labour Party told UK media that the flooding was a “wake-up call” and that investing in flood defenses had to be a priority for the government.

In 2009 Toronto’s City Council mandated a study and report on the risks and impact of climate change. The consultants had to make reasonable assumptions on which to base their study, assumptions they identified in their report delivered in December 2011.

One assumption was that countries would achieve Kyoto or Copenhagen targets for reducing GreenHouse Gas emissions. Lowering emissions will assist in reducing global warming, a contributing cause to severe weather. Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen, as Canada’s experience demonstrates.

Climatologists have warned that the intensity of extreme weather events will increase. The Manchester Guardian commented:

“The latest flooding is causing scientists and engineers to rethink their predictions that increases in flooding, driven by climate change, won’t really kick in until the 2030s; that now looks over-optimistic. A causal link to climate change cannot be proved for any of the recent events, but they are precisely the type of floods that the Foresight team feared and forecast in 2004 – they’ve just arrived a couple of decades earlier than expected.”

This conclusion has a parallel to Toronto’s experience in 2013, the July flooding and the December ice storm. But in our extraordinary political environment it takes political courage to translate that conclusion into action to beef up Toronto’s clearly inadequate defences against the damages that will result.

Toronto is back into sleepwalking mode- again!

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