While Britain Floods, Politicians Debate Climate Change

Britons are normally never more comfortable than when talking about the weather, but recent extreme weather events have began to test that theory. Since December, the U.K. has faced a relentless assault from some of the worst winter weather on record. It began with the worst storm and tidal surges in 60 years hitting the North Sea coastline, floods that ruined Christmas for thousands across Surrey and Dorset and in January, the most exceptional period of rainfall since 1766. The deluge has transformed swathes of southern England into cold, dark lakes, destroying homes and businesses, and in some cases taking lives. Politicians have looked weak in the face of such natural disaster, with many facing criticism from local residents for doing little more than turning up as “flood tourists” at the site of disasters, incapable of helping those in crisis and only there for a photo opportunity. The Environment Agency, the body responsible for combating floods and managing rivers, has also been blamed for failing to curb the disasters. But there’s an ever larger debate over the role of climate change in the current floods and storms, and it has been unremittingly hostile, with bitter disagreement within the government itself. (MORE: A Landmark International Agreement to Halt Wildlife Trafficking Is Just the Beginning) The U.K.’s Met Office, the country’s national weather service, issued a report on the recent climatic events, linking it to the cold weather in Canada and the U.S. The report indicated that “as yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change” to these events, in part because of how varied the U.K. weather tends to be. “But all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change,” said Dame Julia Slingo, the Met Office’s chief scientists. “There is no evidence to counter the basic premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly rain events.” When heavy rain in 2000 devastated parts of Britain, a later study found the climate change had doubled the chances of the


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