Tuesday, August 14, 2007

UK: Now that extreme weather is normal, how will we cope?

Yorkshire Post: South Yorkshire experienced unprecedented damage and disruption with the catastrophic floods 50 days ago. But there is now the problem of what we should learn from this event to prevent the floods happening again, or at least to limit the damage.

Learning these lessons is crucial because thanks to climate change – which is happening, even though we argue about causes – we have entered a period of extremes. It important to realise that drought and flood are flip-sides of the same coin. Floods this year do not, therefore, make future droughts less likely, and we must take stock of where this leaves us.

…Driven by government polices over decades, and by massive subsidies from EU and UK governments, we have drained, drained and drained. Rivers, straightened and canalised, are now locked between artificial banks, while the natural drainage systems are decoupled from their flood plains which have been reduced or removed...Then, in recent years, we've begun to build anew on the once-expansive flood plains which historically acted as the natural control systems of Yorkshire's lowlands.

…The next few years will see massive investment in the engineered infrastructure to combat floods – barriers, embankments, upgraded drainage systems and the rest, costing millions of pounds.

However, there is still the threat of further development on the flood plain, nature's water management system. There are now serious questions of whether homeowners will get or be able to afford insurance against flood damage. If they cannot, then fewer people will risk living in flood zones. Already, it will be difficult for those affected to sell their properties and move. House values and saleability will fall.

This is a controversial issue since the catastrophes are to a degree predictable, and indeed were predicted by environmentalists and planners….

For the long term, however, we need to work with the grain of nature not against it. …

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