Christopher Booker: Flooding Chaos Is Down To David Cameron, Not Climate Change

  • Date: 12/01/14
  • Christopher Booker, The Sunday Telegraph

There is a massive policy failure which lies firmly at the door of the very Government for which Mr Cameron is responsible.

Swamped: flood water covers part of the Somerset Levels, endangering wildlife
Swamped: flood water covers part of the Somerset Levels, endangering wildlife Photo: PA

From those record-breaking blizzards and -35C (-31F) temperatures ravaging North America to the mini-disaster of the floods across large parts of my county of Somerset, the big story of the week was the weather (or “climate”). And nothing said about this was sillier or more alarming than David Cameron’s claim in the Commons that “I very much suspect” that such “abnormal weather events” were linked to “climate change”. Almost instantly, he was slapped down even by one of the normally rabid warmists of the Met Office, who said there was “no evidence” that these storms were made “more intense” by climate change.

Mr Cameron was equally contradicted by the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which repeatedly found little evidence that climate change of the type it believes in could be blamed for recent hurricanes, floods, heatwaves or droughts across the world.

What was terrifying about Mr Cameron’s casual comment, in view of the colossally damaging policies such beliefs have led his government to pursue, was that he has clearly made not the slightest effort to examine the scientific evidence.

It is true that in recent years, when global temperatures have so signally failed to rise as the IPCC’s computer models predicted, the more extreme warmists have tried desperately to blame any “extreme weather event” on man-made climate change. But in every instance the scientific and historical data have shown this to be wrong. Far from increasing, the number and intensity of hurricanes, droughts, tornadoes and the rest have, if anything, declined, just as there is considerably more polar sea ice in the world today than its average level through all the 30 years when we have been told that the world is in the grip of runaway warming.

Instead of revealing that he has no idea what he is talking about, Mr Cameron might concentrate on the real causes of the genuine problem highlighted by the recent flooding, which has affected so many parts of the UK, not least the vast area of the Somerset Levels. I have been talking to a team from the Royal Bath & West agricultural society, who are admirably and expertly trying to find a practical solution to the damaging floods that in recent years have wrought havoc on a sixth of our county, not only in the winter, which is customary, but even, as in 2012, for months of the summer.

There is no doubt that a central part of this problem lies in the refusal of the Government’s own Environment Agency, since it took overall responsibility for draining the Levels in 1995, to dredge the main rivers, which are so clogged up that they can no longer carry away the run-off from flooding. This is exacerbated by the fond belief of so many there, and in that other government agency, Natural England, that the Levels should be allowed to return to the swampy wilderness that they were before being drained by Dutch engineers in the 17th century. (A former head of the Environment Agency was heard to say that she would like to “attach a limpet mine to every pumping station”.)

One ironic result of this studied failure to dredge is that it inflicts immense damage, not only on the human population of the area, but also on the very wildlife – birds, flowers, water voles and even fish – that these gullible idealists imagine they are trying to preserve. The farmers themselves are only too willing to play their part in contributing to a practical solution, as are the Bath & West (which, for long periods from the 18th century onwards, took responsibility for co-ordinating drainage of the Levels), and Somerset County Council.

But ultimately a key part in this must be played by the Government. Mr Cameron may talk airily about how we must “invest in flood defences”, but there is a massive policy failure here, which lies firmly at the door of the very Government for which Mr Cameron himself is responsible. Instead of treating us to his scientifically illiterate views on “climate change”, he should try to focus on the harsh consequences of a policy that successive governments have done more than anyone else to create.

The Sunday Telegraph, 12 January 2014