Large parts of the UK are currently completely underwater from floods and storms that have battered the lengthy coastline of this little island. Some people will immediately point out that this demonstrates the power of climate change to impact even the richest countries on the planet. I, however, would argue that the response to the floods merely demonstrates the complete and utter uselessness of politicians in the UK (and possibly elsewhere).
On the absolute stupidest level of complete denial, we have the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Their leader, Nigel Farage, has claimed that such enormous floods have nothing to do with a changing climate, they’re “just weather”. Another member of the same party has managed to appear an even bigger fool, by claiming that the floods are God’s punishment for gay marriage – yes, in the year 2014, someone really said that out loud. Meanwhile, the former Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson has said that the floods demonstrate why we shouldn’t build wind turbines in the countryside – I won’t insult your intelligence any further by trying to explain his reasoning.
This complete scientific illiteracy coming from marginal politicians would be laughable if it weren’t being mirrored in more subtle ways by the government itself. There has been a lot of discussion about how to best avoid future flooding, and a number of Conservatives have claimed that dredging the rivers would do the trick – that is, removing the build up of silt from the banks of the rivers to allow water to flow more freely. In actual fact, this wouldn’t do a lot – it would primarily just move the water downstream at a quicker rate, simply flooding a different town. So if it’s not actually a useful response, why are so many politicians suddenly pushing it?
The most sensible response to the issue would be to accept that flooding is here to stay. Because of the changing climate, the UK will start to experience more and more bad winter storms like these in the years to come – perhaps not every year, but certainly on a more regular basis than previously. And if flooding is here to stay, we should engineer our rivers to collect flood water on land that has been set aside specifically for the purpose of being flooded – essentially creating a small lake that will flood each year in the winter and then drain in the summer. This will collect most of the flood waters, reducing their impacts on towns and villages.
But that will not be suggested by the politicians, because it would mean converting agricultural land back to natural land – rich landowners wouldn’t be able to plant any crops on this new flood land, which means they would lose out on a fraction of the generous subsidies they receive from the British government and the European Union. The rich landowners would rather see the people in rural towns and villages get flooded instead, despite the devastation it causes to these communities. And, because this is the way things happen in the UK, when the rich want something, they get it. Hence, the politicians suggest useless dredging rather than any serious solutions.
In the end, then, this is not so much an issue of climate change as it is an issue of political will. As long as it suits the government and the landowners of the UK to do nothing, nothing will get done, and we will continue to suggest minor changes that will not really impact on the problem. It’s time for the UK to understand that these floods are a wake-up call – to realize that climate change is not going away, and eventually we will have to take real action to deal with it, even if it hurts the rich while benefiting the poor.
UK climate change, UKIP, Nigel Farage, gay marriage, scientific illiteracy, marginal politicians, UK flooding