More Climate Change?

In Senate Passes Bill to Delay Spike in Flood Insurance Rates, the opinions of the Climate Change lobby are given an airing.

‘The aim of the Biggert-Waters Act was to shift the financial risk of insuring flood-prone properties to the private market from taxpayers…the debate over who will pay for the nation’s rapidly rising costs for flood damage highlights what scientists say is one of the many risks of climate change’

Let’s run through that again. The consequences of reckless development in risky locations e.g. drained wet lands, flood plains and low lying coastal areas now equates to climate change.

In London, The Daily Telegraph has a different take; civil service defeatism is the order of the day in UK floods: ‘We can protect towns or country, not both,’ says Environment Agency boss.

Let’s dwell on the much publicized Somerset Levels.

Map of the Somerset Levels showing areas of flooding as of January 2014

Somerset Levels showing flooded areas  (Jan-14)

Somerset Levels showing flooded areas (Jan-14)

The Levels are natural wetlands and cover an area of about 250 square miles. They are low lying areas close to and in some cases, below sea level. Man has made repeated attempts to drain this place. In historical times, the levels were a patchwork of small, fresh-water lakes and man mad islands. The incident of Alfred the Great and the burnt cakes is said to have occurred when he was on the run from a marauding Danish army in 878 AD. By the Middle Ages, monasteries were responsible for much of the drainage. In the present day, there are a number of hamlets on the Levels such as Aller, Beer and Oath (deserted since medieval times), and a few small towns such as Glastonbury and Street. The place is prone to both freshwater flooding, and of the seawall being overtopped during storms.

Reading between the lines, the Environment Agency has had a policy that involves giving the place back to nature. e.g. in discussing the role of the Environment Agency vis a vis the Somerset Levels, a House of Commons Debate (Hansard 10 June 2007) mentions that ‘With rising sea levels, the work required to maintain the sea defences is likely to become more expensive, and it has been proposed that two inland seas be created‘.
Help! The sea is rising!! Oh, how persuaded I am by those dulcet tones!
But wait, during the Great Storm of 1703 (one of the worst storms to hit the South of England) waves overtopped the sea walls by 4 feet – whereas the crisis now is one of fresh-water flooding that has persisted for just over one month. The reasons for the continued flooding are largely to do with drainage, and ultimately of man’s doing.
Numerous proposals have been put forward to deal with the ongoing hazards of living / working in the Levels – it is a highly contentious and long-running debate. Sea level rise and climate change help inject a little froth.

About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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