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It never used to happen

01 Nov 2023 | OP ED Watch

Something called “The i”, which is “a British national newspaper published in London by Daily Mail and General Trust” whose marketing department is apparently desperate to seem hip, bellows that “People would not die in storms like Babet if country was better prepared, climate scientist warns”. Because apparently people never died in storms in Britain before there was a climate. (Besides, are you saying adaptation is the answer?) Meanwhile a BBC item on pre-Columbian carvings that have surfaced due to low water in the Amazon insists that “The Brazilian government attributes the drought to climate change and the El Niño weather phenomenon, which has caused the volume of rainfall in the northern Amazon to fall below the historical average and river levels to drop to near record levels.” But if so, how were people carving there a thousand or even two thousand years ago? Were they holding their breath? Or is drought natural and periodic? No, it can’t be. It mustn’t be.

The Babet story tells us that “Seven people have died as a result of Storm Babet, which brought heavy rain and flooding to parts of the country over the weekend.” And nowadays deaths from natural disasters are so rare in the developed world that seven is a lot. No, wait. Damages and death are soaring, right?

Absolutely. “Extreme rainfall and flooding is becoming more common” and:

“According to scientists, weather events such as Storm Babet have become far more common in the UK due to climate change and will continue to become more frequent for as long as global temperatures continue to rise.”

Who are these scientists? Why, the ones in our Rolodex, and those who get past the gatekeepers by blaming it all on climate. Like, say, “Dr Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change” who is, no doubt, free to attribute all, some or none of it to man-made climate change in pursuit of their vision (“A sustainable, resilient, zero-carbon society”, funded with millions of pounds from the Grantham Foundation that says “Climate change is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. It is the race of our lives.”). She just happens to… but we digress.

The piece makes it all sound utterly authoritative. This increase in weather in the UK:

“is largely because a warm atmosphere holds more water vapour, with the atmosphere’s capacity for holding moisture increasing by 7 per cent with every one degree rise in air temperature.”

Seven per cent. How precise. What settled science. As for “events such as Storm Babet”, what does that really mean? Well, in Portugal several ceilings were torn off. In Norway, over 20,000 people were without electricity, a road was closed and several planes could not land.

Oddly, the Wikipedia article incautiously offers a link to the “Great storm of 1987 – a powerful European windstorm which also hit the United Kingdom during mid-October” with “gusts typically with a return period of 1 in 200 years”. So are we to understand that the brutal impacts of man-made climate change were in full swing 40 years ago? Or that you’re just hyping a storm for polemical purposes?

Maybe the latter, given that Daniel Dafoe’s 1704 The Storm describes a week-long hurricane that hit in November 1703, so long ago it was December in the Gregorian calendar, and not realizing climate change meant doom killed over 8,000 people out of a much smaller population. Not to mention “Saint Marcellus’s flood” in 1362 that killed at least 25,000 people from the British Isles to northern Germany, that being the second such flood, the first in 1219 having killed perhaps 36,000 on the continent.

Now we understand journalists not knowing about such things as they probably don’t have Google on their computers. But what’s a scientist’s excuse? Oh right. It’s not about the data, it’s about the model projections:

“Grahame Madge, from the Met Office… said the UK is already seeing more days recording over 50mm of rain due to climate change, while Met Office research has found the number of days with daily rainfall totals exceeding 50mm during October, November and December will increase by 85 per cent between 2019 and 2080 unless emissions are controlled.”

P.S. The “The i” piece did mention that “Dr Jess Neuman, a flooding expert at the University of Reading, said the UK should not be thinking about events such as Storm Babet ‘as a one-off freak event’.” We agree heartily but not in the way she and they meant. Actually floods have been happening in the UK since the “Storegga Slide“, which was before Britain was even an island, and are not caused by CO2.

2 comments on “It never used to happen”

  1. And said journalists and scientists also conveniently forget that deaths from natural disasters have dropped 98% in the last century.Despite the population tripling in the same time period.

  2. About 30 years ago the UK stopped dredging rivers and estuaries which means that all the previously removed sediment now remains in place, which over the years has filled in the bottom of these areas causing the resulting flooding to be a lot worse than it used to be and also causes the run off time to increase.

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