Environment: Campaigners are drawing attention to who is responsible for the flooding

It’s heartbreaking to see photos of people’s possessions thrown out in the street following the recent floods and to hear of those who lost their lives.

As clearing up after the storm continues in Catcliffe, Retford and other local areas Climate Campaigners are drawing attention to who is responsible for the flooding. They have renamed Storm Babet to Storm BP to show that it is the oil companies that are ultimately responsible. They should be compensating flood victims as they have known CO2 emissions would cause an increase in flooding since the 1970’s. Future storms will be renamed after different oil companies.

The Conservative Government has a record of ignoring science. Rishi Sunak was described as “Doctor Death” when he was Chancellor for ignoring scientific advice during Covid and promoting the “Eat out to help out” scheme. We don’t know how many deaths this led to. But ignoring climate science as we are at present will lead to an unimaginable death toll.

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Our Government and most Governments around the world continue to ignore what climate scientists are saying to them. We must start a very fast transition away from the use of fossil fuels. Instead, our crazy Government is investing in more oil, coal and gas which will further increase global temperatures.

Climate activists have been arguing amongst themselves recently about how many deaths are likely. One of the Founders of Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam, was interviewed on Radio 4 and claimed a 2-degree increase in world temperatures would lead to a billion deaths. Author Mark Lynas wrote an article in reply questioning the scientific basis for this. Roger’s quote was from a peer-reviewed paper, but Mark questioned the qualifications of those who peer-reviewed it.

To me the number is irrelevant. What is very clear is that people all over the world are already suffering due to our overheating planet. Crops are already failing and this week we heard there is an international shortage of rice. The price of rice has soared by 20% since June. This is an extremely serious hardship in African and Asian countries where hunger is common. The shortage has been caused by droughts and floods.

How anyone can calculate the number of deaths likely to occur from 2 degrees of heating is beyond me. But the numbers will be massive if we can’t avoid, say, the collapse of the world food system.

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Throughout my lifetime scientists have carefully measured the small gradual increases in worldwide temperature. Normally they might increase by 0.01 or 0.02°C a month. This September temperatures were the warmest on record, breaking the previous high by a huge margin. September was 0.93C warmer than the average September temperature between 1991-2020, and 0.5C hotter than the previous record set in 2020.

Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth Systems Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research called the figures "gobsmackingly bananas". The next largest margins by which a previous September record was topped were 0.09°C, 0.07°C and 0.06°C. “

Climate Scientists do not understand why these figures are so high. I fear we have moved to a new stage by reaching tipping points that mean the climate is becoming increasingly more unstable.

In Antarctica scientists recently found the ice is melting much quicker than previously expected. An ice sheet in West Antarctica could push up global sea levels by several metres if it collapsed, flooding many coastal cities. The study found warming at twice the rate suggested by climate models.

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Climate scientists have long expected that polar regions would warm faster than the rest of the planet. This is known as polar amplification – and this has been seen in the Arctic.

Dr Mathieu Casado, a French climate scientist and lead author of the study, said they had found “direct evidence” that Antarctica was also now undergoing polar amplification.

“It is extremely concerning to see such significant warming in Antarctica, beyond natural variability,” he said.

Of course, the quicker the polar regions melt, the more floods we can expect here.

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What needs to be done? Stop building in floodplains! Rewild the moors and restore the peat bogs so they slow the flow of these big storms. We should plant millions of trees to help absorb the extra water. We need more schemes such as those currently being installed at Graves Park and Manor Park Fields to slow the flow of water. In urban areas, we need less tarmac, more green space and green roofs. Councils should encourage householders to install a water butt and encourage people to empty them before a big storm. And yes, we do need physical flood defences, improvements to our sewers and schemes to de-culvert our rivers. Catcliffe urgently needs the planned new pumping station.

Local plans to build flood resilience are outlined in the Mayor’s report “Connected by Water” which was published in January this year. This came about following the flooding of 2019 when Fishlake was particularly badly hit. There are lots of good plans here, but much more radical action is required from the Government to prepare for the dramatic climate changes that are on the way.