When the floods recede, commitment to act on climate change must surge

If we are to find a positive from these devastating floods, it must be a renewal in our efforts to contain the worst of climate change.

Reg Platt is senior research fellow at IPPR

The recent flooding experienced in the UK has been truly horrific. We must hope that there is respite from the devastation soon and those affected can get on with rebuilding their lives.

If there is to be a silver lining it will be that the events strengthen our commitment to tackling harmful carbon pollution.

No one weather event can be ascribed firmly to climate change but the scientific evidence is resolutely clear that climate change increases the probability of extreme weather events. And when you survey weather events not just in the UK but across the world, it is clear that the impacts of climate change are already being felt, with devastating consequences.

Lord Stern, the UK cross-bench peer who authored in 2006 the most important evidence review on climate change the world over, has today in an article eloquently explained the links between climate change, the recent UK floods and other extreme weather events across the globe. The Met office has also linked the recent floods to climate change.

The worrying thing is that the climatic impacts we are already experiencing are the result of a temperature increase of 0.7 degrees C since pre-industrial times.

And yet, because there is a lag between when carbon pollution is released and when it impacts on temperatures, we are already committed as a planet to warming substantially in excess of this. To use an apt metaphor, the impacts we are currently seeing are just the tip of the iceberg to what we will experience in years to come.

In fact, if we do not act quickly to stem carbon pollution then the damaging climatic impacts to which we are committed will become far greater.

It was stated in the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is an on-going global scientific collaboration on climate change that works on behalf of the UN negotiation process, that at current rates of carbon pollution we have between 15 and 25 years until the planet will be committed to temperature increases of 2 degrees C.

This is the internationally agreed ‘dangerous’ level of temperature increase. At this level not only will the climatic impacts be severe, the chance of ‘positive feedbacks’ leading to rapid acceleration in temperatures up to 4 and 5 degrees increases dramatically.

It is hard to see as meaningful the notion that we can simply ‘adapt’ to the scale of impacts unleashed at these temperatures.

And yet, despite the resounding clarity of the scientific evidence there are some that seek to undermine the scientific basis of climate change and promote inaction from government. Worryingly these arguments have found substantial purchase in a large portion of the right wing press and are even ascribed to by some front bench politicians in the Conservative party.

There are several reasons why these influential people have found themselves ascribing to these views. Some are simply contrarians who enjoy the profile that comes from a discordant view.

Others are ideologically opposed to having the state intervene in markets, which must occur in some fashion or other, since climate change results from the failure of markets to price in the impacts caused by carbon pollution.

And finally there are those with a much more cynical agenda, whose economic value is tied up in the existing high carbon polluting world.

It should not surprise anyone to know that fossil fuel interests bank roll much climate change denying activity. And the big energy companies in the UK have recently demonstrated how they will put their own self-interest before efforts to tackle climate change.

As the influence of climate change detractors has grown in recent years, it has become clear that while we have the technology and the capital to tackle this problem, we are failing to win the politics.

That’s why the most important outcome from the recent floods could be renewed collective pressure by the public to ensure we take the action that is required to tackle climate change. The government should be held to account to ensure the UK’s legal climate change obligations are fulfilled.

The consequences and risks of inaction on climate change are simply too severe to be left to somebody else. Tackling climate change is going to be incredibly difficult. But in difficult circumstances the right response is to tackle challenges head-on, not simply ignore or hide from them.

Impacts from climate change are already happening, with devastating results. The future of people the world over depends on the actions we choose to take now.

If we are to find a positive from these devastating floods, it must be a renewal in our efforts to contain the worst of climate change.

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7 Responses to “When the floods recede, commitment to act on climate change must surge”

  1. swatnan

    There has to be International accord and co-operation in tackling Climate Change. We mustn’t let the big wasters of Energy ie the Americans be so wasteful. You can’t blame the new emerging Asian Economic Giants for using energy just to simply catch up with the US and Europe.

  2. drydamol1


    The Conspiracy Theorists with their beliefs concerning
    the Illuminati and New World Order are not very far from the Truth .If a more
    basic title was used it would be more acceptable “Bankers Rule Governments”
    not intimating neither of the above are untrue .All Banks are Linked to a small
    Central Hub.

    Forget something none of us know about ‘Politics’ they
    are waffle to confuse the issue ,just concentrate on basic logic .Why
    should a collective of poorer people pay Billions to a Company that as we see it incompetent – RBS and others have been bailed out by £332.4
    Billion since 2007.If we fail at our job we are sacked not given a rise
    and Knighted .Western Governments are Money Collectors for a Central Money Hub
    .Governments are the middle men who collect all the Money in and deduct
    Expenses ,such as our Public Services – that’s why Public Services are being
    cut , Benefits being slashed beyond recognition and any other ‘outgoing payments’ .More Privatisation is the Key word
    so we end up paying instead of the “State subsidising us” Now they want to scrap Maternity
    Leave and Privatise Old Age Pensions .The Office for Budget Responsibilities
    make Forecasts for Cameron and Osborne to follow ,that’s where they get
    “Immigration is Good” for the Country -it
    means Cheaper Labour .

    Why can Bankers print worthless paper money(there is no
    gold or silver to back it up ) and charge interest on it ,they are earning
    money from worthless paper so why cannot Governments do the same and the Public
    have Interest Free Loans – its our money after all .No chance they would not be
    allowed .

    Everything in Life is Cyclic ,throughout History Money
    has been controlled by others instead of the State Jesus in the Temple ,two Roman Emperors were
    Assassinated because they wanted to reverse the situation ,similar to two USA
    Presidents Lincoln& Kennedy .

    Osborne Reduced the Flood Defence Budget in
    2010 by 30% why ? We went to War with America as a Colony because they
    printed their own Money and the BoE did not like it .

    Forget what you think you are voting for because the
    Status Quo will continue .


  3. swatnan

    … and we could learn some lessons from the Dutch and the Venetians.

  4. p keough

    it is already far too late. the inaction and inertia have taken the global climate change too far down the road to alter the changes taking place. the devastating weather patterns are simply going to become worse and worse. we have taken from the industrial revolution to pollute the atmosphere to the extent we have, there is simply not enough time to “de pollute ” it. so it`s just tough s##t . get used to living under water,

  5. Jeff M

    Good argument for a massive expansion of nuclear power!

  6. Doug

    The issue extends beyond long-term action on climate change to strategic leadership and a readiness for the predicted changes, before they occur. As the writer points out, the inertia to date means that we are only experiencing the tip of an iceberg. The experience in the UK demonstrates that leaders still respond with knee jerk reactions rather than being proactive. The politicians, of course, also never fail to use these opportunities for publicity and self-promotion.

  7. Diana Lury

    Nuclear power using thorium is the way to go

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