At 8am on Boxing Day in my family home in north Wales, I received a rude awakening. There was a banging on the front door, then on the window, and then again on the door. A murmuring of voices, then everyone was awake, looking out of the windows. A river now connected the front garden to the back, which was submerged in swirling brown water. The fireman (for it was he who had woken us up) said we were trapped. The roads around us had flooded so there was no way in or out. My dad stood at the window, watching the water cascade into the garden. “This has happened twice in the last three years,” he said. “And never in the 30 years before that.”
Why is no one talking about that? I spent the day watching news reports and not one mentioned how flooding on this scale has become more frequent in recent years. In fact, it was presented as an unexplained phenomenon, a sorry accident that we can neither prevent nor hope to understand.
This is nothing short of a dereliction of duty on the part of the media in reporting floods that are both explainable and, to an extent, preventable. They are a direct consequence of living on a warming planet; they are a symptom of climate change, as are the bush fires that raged in Australia this month. As we sat there with the water rising around us, it struck me that my family was the perfect metaphor for the public response to climate change: cut off from reality.
We live on the border of Snowdonia National Park, an area that could be opened for fracking now the Government has consented to it. The gas extracted by fracking will cause the climate to change further.
My family and all the residents of north Wales, Cumbria, Yorkshire and Somerset deserve better than this. We deserve to understand the causes behind our homes being put in peril. And we deserve a government that will do everything to keep us safe. That includes standing up to fossil-fuel companies and honouring the agreements made at the Paris climate talks just two weeks ago. The Government must also engage with climate scientists to understand this existential threat.
There were no politicians speaking on the news reports on Boxing Day. Perhaps they were too embarrassed; flood defences have been cut by £282m since David Cameron became Prime Minister. If officials did not want to talk about those cuts, it was the media’s job to point it out. But nor were there interviews with local councillors, whose budgets have been squeezed since 2010, severely undermining their ability to plan for disasters. The Department for Communities and Local Government’s budget will have been cut by more than 50 per cent by 2020. How will we cope with flooding like this by then?
My family were lucky: the only thing ruined for us was Boxing Day. Yet weather reports seemed like terminal diagnoses and left us feeling powerless, at the mercy of something huge and unforgiving.
Britain is one of the richest countries in the world. It has enormous political power. The Government could take decisive action to prevent further climate change and it could put pressure on other countries to do the same. It could mitigate the worst effects of the changes that have already occurred. We need to have a proper conversation about why it is choosing not to do so.
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