Now the rain has gone…
While I must repeat the mantra of “no one weather event can be directly attributed to climate change”, the recent floods across England have shifted the emphasis from climate change mitigation (reducing the likelihood of rising temperatures) to its less glamorous cousin, adaptation (reducing the impact of those raised temperatures).
The first thing we have to do is stop siting new developments in places susceptible to flooding. The Housing Minister’s statement on the Today programme last week that “it is unrealistic not to build on flood plains” must have raised howls of incredulity from the soggy households of the West Midlands and Yorkshire, and her logic is baffling under any circumstances. Flood plain. The clue is in the name.
The next thing that has to be done is to slow down and reverse the concreting of our country so rainwater does not run off so quickly. There are plenty of proven technical solutions from permeable hardstanding to full blown Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems. Unfortunately the latter take up a large amount of space and cannot be easily shoehorned into existing towns and cities.
Lastly we have to provide physical protection to key infrastructure under threat from flooding. The problem with barriers is they have a tendency to shift the problem elsewhere and this must be taken into consideration.
There is evidence that climate change impacts lag carbon emissions by about 50 years, so even if we went zero carbon right now, we’re stuck with changing weather patterns for the foreseeable future. It looks as if we will be hearing a lot more about adaptation in the months and years to come.