Cornwall floods will be more frequent and severe following cuts to defences

The overnight flooding in Cornwall, which police have called a “major incident”, was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions today. Mr Cameron described it as “a very difficult night” (though thankfully there are no reports of any casualties), praised the police and coastal services for doing a “fantastic job” and said the government “stand ready to help in any way that we can”.

The overnight flooding in Cornwall, which police have called a “major incident”, was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions today. Mr Cameron described it as “a very difficult night” (though thankfully there are no reports of any casualties), praised the police and coastal services for doing a “fantastic job” and said the government “stand ready to help in any way that we can”.


Flooding  is not an uncommon phenomenon during the winter period. Heavy rain and gale-force winds inevitably lead to floods that cause an average damage of over £1 billion per year – yet the economic costs look likely to increase substantially over the coming years due to a number of factors:

• Climate change, which is expected to cause larger amounts of rain and rising sea levels;

• An ageing drainage system and flood defence infrastructure;

• A higher intensity of buildings in flood-prone areas; and

• More areas being paved over that cannot soak up the necessary amounts of water anymore.

All in all, the Office of Science and Technology calculates that annual flood damage costs may well exceed £27 billion across the UK by 2080. This, however, was an estimate conducted prior to the announcement by the Chancellor of cutting the department responsible for flood defences, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, by around 30 per cent.

In a more recent report, the Environment Agency estimated that if spending on asset maintenance and construction for flooding does not increase by £20 million plus inflation per year to 2035, the economy will suffer a total of £180bn in costs derived directly from damage caused by floods.

In a recent research report conducted by the House of Commons Library, instead of reducing government spending on flood defence by more than £1bn per year within the next 25 years, it is actually being decreased by £236m over the next four years.

This comes despite environment secretary Caroline Spelman claiming the reduction will actually mean 145,000 homes will be better protected by 2015; she seems to further ignore the fact that it has actually been the local authorities who have played the greatest role in tackling flood risk – and have now been asked to cut their spending by billions.

In these austere times, the only possible sources to enable them to increase or at least maintain local funding includes a council tax levy, voluntary contributions from businesses or individuals and community funding.

Looking at who is affected by flooding, the House of Commons Library reveals that, although some areas close to rivers or seas are logically more susceptible to flooding, “pretty much everyone” is under threat due to surface water flooding which is caused when areas that usually soak up water cannot do so any longer because of having been paved over.

Due to the local authorities and the government reducing their spending on flood defences, the flood protection infrastructure ageing rapidly and climate change beginning to take its toll, floods like that in Cornwall look like becoming more frequent, more severe and more widespread.

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18 Responses to “Cornwall floods will be more frequent and severe following cuts to defences”

  1. Diane Hain

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cornwall floods will be more frequent and severe following cuts to defences: http://bit.ly/ciNVEQ

  2. Matthew

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cornwall floods will be more frequent and severe following cuts to defences http://bit.ly/bhNrC4

  3. Paul Seery

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cornwall floods will be more frequent and severe following cuts to defences: http://bit.ly/ciNVEQ

  4. Voting Floater

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cornwall floods will be more frequent and severe following cuts to defences: http://bit.ly/ciNVEQ

  5. Oxford Kevin

    It is not just in Cornwall, in David Cameron’s constituency the Tory dominated council is planning to cut the budget for flood defence work http://bit.ly/9THX7x. The flood defence budget was only increased in Witney after the July 2007 flooding and the 2008 flood which resulted in a fatality, the increase allowed what should be routine maintenance work to start but this is likely to scaled back with the proposed cuts.

  6. Billy Blofeld

    “Climate change, which is expected to cause larger amounts of rain and rising sea levels”

    Matthew,

    How much more rain is expected and by how far is the sea predicted to rise and by when?

  7. Matthew Pitt

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted in its latest report (the Fourth Assessment Report) that sea levels may rise in the most extreme of cases by 59cm by 2090-99, which does not sound much but means that many coastal areas and many millions of people will be directly affected. In addition, this figure excludes uncertainties in climate-carbon cycle feedback and the full effects of changes in ice sheet flow simply because not enough literature and data is available.
    The IPCC also predicts that there will be fewer light and moderate rainfalls and more heavy ones. It has no numbers but states that it will not only lead to ‘flash gloods’ but also drought.

  8. jee_24

    59 cm is an extreme case. and would have barely an effect on anybody anywhere in the world apart from the need to build levees 59 cm higher in 90 years. that is a ‘catastrophic’ view, however. The models don’t include the feedback of clouds (it is not even know if this is +ve or -ve).

    current sea level rise is a rather constant 1.8mm.

    it did go up to 40mm per year back towards the end of the last ice age. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Post-Glacial_Sea_Level.png

    so the current rate of sea level rise is small given a historical context.

    and remember, the IPCC predicted that Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035 with 90% probability. something a child standing at the Gaumukh glacier and looking upwards towards its source could have told you.

  9. mike

    Cornwall Council have failed to put its full weight behind the clear up operation, and have yet to ask for extra support from central governmnet

    Cornwall Tories simply dont care

  10. Oxford Kevin

    @4

    The IPCC mistake was a typo, the date should have been 2350, out of over 3000 pages, that is the best criticism you can come up with. Actually that isn’t the worst mistake from the IPCC. It was the their whole approach to sea level rise, the papers that were coming out as the Fourth assessment report was being produced were suggesting that sea level rise was going to be significantly higher than what the IPCC was projecting, but because the IPCC likes to have papers to have been published for a while to have had time for criticism to be included in the report these new projections were left out and unfortunately since the Fourth IPCC assessment report was published the projections for sea level rise have all been on the upside.

    In terms of how our coastal cities are able to deal with sea level rise whether or not sea levels rose at a rate of 40 mm per year at the end of the last ice age is irrelevant, we didn’t have millions of people with that huge amount of capital invested in the cities where they live to defend. How is this a relevant argument. The important point is whether or not it is cost effective to do something about climate change, defend our coastal cities, or just allow the cities to be flooded and relocate millions of people.

    I would suggest that the IPCC is too conservative in its projections because of the typical reticence of the scientists involved, when they don’t appreciate how their caution will be interpreted.

  11. jee_24

    Kevin

    It was not a typo. After that it went to hundreds of reviewers, none whom knew anything about glaciology. The 90% probability was invented. There is no evidence the glaciers will be gone by 2350 unless you have a good cite?

    That is not the worst criticism and I never claimed it was. There was a lot worse in Chapter I about glaciers (with which I am familiar). Claiming global warming is backed up because a list of 5 Greenland glaciers are receding (out of several thousand) is scientific fraud plain and simple.

    One of the major criticisms of the IPCC is that it relied so heavily on campaigning documents from WWF for its ‘science’ rather than academic papers. That is the true source of the 2035 as you can see if you follow the IPCC references. This ‘grey’ literature is heavily used but ONLY if it paints a catastrophic picture.

    You raise a good point about the opportunity costs of letting coastal settlements flood, protecting them or stopping anthropogenic climate change. I suggest the first and second options are the cheapest by many orders of magnitude.

  12. Oxford Kevin

    Which of the 3 reports are you referring to in relation to the WWF campaign reports. Where the WWF campaign reports used in the first of the 3 which is on the science behind Climate Change?

  13. pontaprint

    don’t quite understand the question (if it is directed at me) but quoting from the IPCC,

    “Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world (see Table 10.9) and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005).”

    which is as we all know, utter nonsense and not a typo. the wwf, 2005 is here

    http://assets.panda.org/downloads/himalayaglaciersreport2005.pdf

  14. Ceri Leigh

    Floods will be more frequent and severe due to defence cuts http://t.co/kQJd9WPV #PMQs

  15. Pucci D

    Que? Run that past me again? #fb RT @leftfootfwd: Floods will be more frequent and severe due to defence cuts http://t.co/GVZHYSlU #PMQs

  16. Kat Gajdos

    Floods will be more frequent and severe following cuts to defences http://t.co/kQJd9WPV #PMQs

  17. Liza Harding

    Floods will be more frequent and severe following cuts to defences http://t.co/kQJd9WPV #PMQs

  18. Lola okolosie

    Floods will be more frequent and severe following cuts to defences http://t.co/kQJd9WPV #PMQs

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