Hard News by Russell Brown

76

Phew, what a scorcher?

The British frequently seem unprepared for the weather. When I lived there, it seemed that every time it snowed, it was as if it hadn't happened since the Romans were in charge. I slept through the "Great Storm" of October 1987: although the south coast copped the strongest winds in 300 years, it didn't get above 65-80km/h in London, but the upshot was chaos in the city. But it does seem like they've got a real situation on their hands this time.

The current flooding may not be the worst the nation has ever known (property damage was greater in the 1947 flood, which followed a sudden thaw after heavy snowfalls), but the fact that 140,000 households in Gloucestershire alone will be without water services for the next two weeks suggests that it's extremely serious.

Two interesting points stand out from the suffering and damage. The lesser is that the British government has hampered its own ability to respond by breaking up the system. Multiple organisations, including privatised water companies, have co-operated and communicated poorly and, in some respects laid the seeds of the disaster with their own investment decisions. Ministers were warned about this three years ago. With our own extreme weather issues lately, it's a lesson we might want to take on board too.

The greater point is the fact that virtually everyone -- from Gordon Brown on down -- is willing to ascribe this extreme weather to global climate change. I would have thought this was possible but unproven, but a new study -- published with exquisite timing in the latest issue of Nature -- in the words of the Guardian "adds weight to the growing belief that the UK is experiencing a fundamental shift in weather pattern with bursts of extremely hot conditions and almost tropical downpours."

When you have made decades' worth of planning decisions on quite different assumptions (and, say, permitted extensive building on natural flood plains), that's going to cause you some problems.

Meanwhile, as many as 500 people have died in Hungary as a result of the heatwave that is gripping southern Europe. Bosnia and Macedonia have declared a state of emergency. The heatwave, bringing the highest temperatures in more than a century, is the second this summer.

The Indian Express dubbed it "Freaky Europe".

Now might be a good time for Denis Dutton and his chums to emerge to explain again how if global warming is happening (and of course it isn't, you know) it's all good anyway.

PS: Ben 'Bad Science' Goldacre goes absolutely postal on The Observer over its mealy-mouthed defence of its bogus autism story. Good read.

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