UK flood crisis: If we faced a devastating terrorist threat, would our government be responding with such astounding apathy? Of course not

And they certainly wouldn't be indulging in the crass finger-pointing of the past week

Share

With much of the UK facing a red weather warning and with our politicians caught up in an appalling blame game over the floods, imagine instead if we faced a different kind of threat.  Imagine if our Government received even the tiniest shred of evidence that the UK faced a significant terrorist threat from a foreign power.  One that could threaten lives, homes, infrastructure and livelihoods.  How would our rulers respond?

What they wouldn’t be doing is indulging in the crass finger-pointing of the past week.  Instead, you’d expect our representatives to rise to the occasion, for party leaders to show unity and leadership, and to get on with the task of mobilising the country, so that thousands of homes wouldn’t be at threat.

Compare and contrast with how successive Governments have handled our national resilience to the threat of flooding and the worst effects of climate change.  Indeed, a decade ago the then Government’s Chief Scientist, Sir David King, stated that climate change was a far greater threat to the world than terrorism. Yet our political classes have, for the most part, ignored the warnings as the evidence of risk mounts. It’s a tragedy that it has taken thousands of people to be displaced from their homes to get politicians talking about climate change again. 

Defra’s most recent Climate Change Risk Assessment projects that a million more people will be at significant flood risk by the 2020s, but instead of being prepared for climate change,  efforts have fallen woefully short of what is needed to cope in a crisis. Our current administration has cut flood defence spending, excluded climate change from its flood insurance scheme and appointed a climate sceptic as Environment Secretary.  It’s slashed staff working on climate adaptation at Defra from 38 officials down to just six, and is forcing the Environment Agency to make huge cuts to frontline staff that will inevitably impact on future flood responses.

It’s clear that the Prime Minister believes global warming is real. Indeed, in his Downing Street press conference yesterday, he stated that “climate change is a very serious issue”. Last month, he said: “We are seeing more abnormal weather events. Colleagues across the house can argue about whether that is linked to climate change or not. I very much suspect that it is.“ On this, he is backed up by the Met Office, who last weekend published a fresh report that states, ominously: ”There is no evidence to counter the basic premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly heavy rain events.“

No, the problem is not the Prime Minister’s warm words about global warming, but his inability to match this with action. “Money is no object”, he has said, when it comes to cleaning up the mess left by the floods. But David Cameron has failed to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to preparing in advance for the threat of climate change. His Government opted to steadily dismantle our ability to cope with a changing climate, and is now finding itself in desperate crisis-management mode, pouring money down the storm drain.

What we need now is a mature response from Government that shows they recognise the warnings and will ensure our ability to cope in future.  The independent Committee on Climate Change has advised that a half-billion pound gap has emerged between flood defence spending and what needs to be invested to keep pace with our changing climate. 

They need to invest in rejuvenating our natural flood defences by overhauling unsustainable agricultural practices.  We have systematically destroyed the ability of nature to deal with storms by clearing vegetation from uplands, clearing out streams and turning rivers into concrete culverts. This should also be a wake-up call to the Coalition on the need to show international leadership on carbon reduction at climate negotiations and move away from fossil fuels and their ill-fated venture into UK fracking. 

While the Government’s lamentable response to the floods over the past few weeks may not reflect the urgency that we’d expect in an international security crisis, more and more, the deluge may force politicians to reconsider their priorities when faced with questions from an angry and flood-besieged electorate.

Craig Bennett is Director of Policy and Campaigns at Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The handling of the tragic deaths of Bobby and Christi Shepherd in 2006 by Thomas Cook was appalling  

Thomas Cook case was a failure of heart

Danny Rogers
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine