“Britain is walking into a national security crisis” according to Ed Miliband. Too true young Ed, but politicians of every political hue have refused to take climate change seriously.
The floods recently experienced can’t just be dismissed as an act of God as Met Office chief scientist Dame Julia Slingo said last week, the “clustering and persistence” of unusually violent storms in recent years is exceptional and points strongly to the disruption of weather cycles and ocean currents by rising temperatures.
Scientists, the world over, agree that homo sapiens activity in causing carbon emissions is a major source of the rising temperature. But governments have singularly failed to rise as fast as the flood-water, to the challenge.
Putting on Wellington boots does not a policy make. The government have failed the country during the crisis. A plethora of photo opportunities will not hide the facts.
Unlike Noah who prepared well in advance of the flood the government took the opposite course. The government’s agenda of slashing public expenditure hit the area of flood prevention just as it did other areas. 300 flood defence schemes had been left unbuilt because of the cuts at a time they should have increased flood defences. All government agencies and departments knew that this expenditure was necessary because of the warming planet. But there are many MPs on the government benches that are climate sceptics. Little wonder that Cameron could get away with the cuts with scarcely a peep.
The other problem is the government’s view of seeing everything that is private as good but the public sector is bad. With such a philosophy expenditure on public works programmes is a very low priority and to be avoided if at all possible. Floods have shown how shortsighted such an approach is. But times are a’changing now that the Tory heartlands along the Thames are affected. Money is no longer a problem, according to the Prime Minister – how reassuring.
The attempts of the government to avoid criticism by blaming the Environment Agency failed when the facts came out. They endured “massive” cuts to their budget since the Cameron government came to power. As the true blue Daily Telegraph reported “Officials working on flood risk management will be sacked as Environment Agency sheds about 15 per cent of its workforce to save money, potentially placing ability to cope with floods at risk”. Cuts on this scale are difficult to pass off as ‘efficiency savings’ when villages and regions are isolated by the floods.
Ministers might have hoped that benign weather would not reveal the folly of cutting back on flood prevention, alas nature was not compliant. Getting rid of the staff is likely to permanently cripple the ability to cope with environmental disasters at a time when they are getting more and more frequent.
Miliband was right to point the finger at David Cameron’s about turn on climate change, from hugging huskies in opposition to wishing to reject the green agenda in office. Whatever happened to it being the greenest government ever?
Economist Sir Nicholas Stern calls climate change “the greatest market failure the world has seen.” He’s right and things must change. Investment in long term planning and new technologists are urgently needed. This winter was a wake up call. Let’s hope that memories don’t fade and the climate and what to do about it dominate the debate in the lead to the next election.