As another storm threatens, the reality of climate change is starting to hit home

Britain needs better defences - and we can afford to do so

Share

After an unusually blustery autumn, including the worst gale since the “Great Storm” of 1987, one might have hoped that the worst was over, at least in the short term. Instead, more than 150,000 households had no power over the festive season thanks to pre-Christmas downpours, and there is yet more to come. The Environment Agency issued no fewer than 10 severe flood warnings on Thursday, cautioning of danger to life and property, and there are forecasts of driving rain, strong winds and high tides starting today and continuing into the weekend.

After sharp criticism about unprepared officialdom, the Government is no longer leaving anything to chance. The Environment Secretary stressed yesterday that, with another round of “exceptional weather” on its way, all agencies are on full alert. Indeed, so seriously is the situation being taken that Owen Paterson convened a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee to discuss a national response to yet more flooding. This time, it is the South and West coasts of England and Wales that are thought to be most at risk. Earlier this week, swathes of Scotland were under water. Before that,  it was the South-east of England, Cumbria and North Wales.

Amid the destruction and heartache, the saddest fact of all is that a run of extreme weather should come as no surprise. Here, and across the world, the effects of global warming are starting to be felt. Just as last year began with a heatwave in Australia, 2014 is also being ushered in with the mercury at record highs Down Under. From the extreme floods across central Europe last June, to Typhoon Haiyan, the most powerful storm in history, which claimed more than 6,000 lives in the Philippines in November, the drumbeat of so-called “weather events” is steadily speeding up.

Climate change has slipped down the agenda thanks to the combination of an unexplained “pause” in global temperatures rises, a dip in carbon emissions as recession dampened industrial activity and public debt crises that focused attention on austerity over green investment. But if the past 12 months tell us anything, it must be that such complacency is unaffordable.

For all the protestations from the political fringes, controversy is waning. The UN’s most recent judgment is that global warming is all but certain to result from human activity. Even in Washington, where sceptics were once in the ascendant, the reality of climate change is no longer in doubt. There is still no global deal to curb carbon emissions, however, and progress at this year’s summit in Lima is vital.

Meanwhile, Britain’s travails might look mild set against the devastation in the Philippines. Even at its most violent, our weather is temperate by comparison. We can also afford to defend ourselves. But we must do so. That means power companies beefing up their infrastructure and ensuring that maintenance teams are on hand to tackle problems. Even more importantly, it means a detailed survey of our flood defences.

Surrounded by the waterlogged ruins of Christmas, the Prime Minister pledged to make such investments a priority. But he will need to do more than talk. When the latest storm passes, and the Cobra committee disbands, the real work to make sure that Britain is better prepared must begin.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions