The House of Commons was in sombre mood as Ministers described the effects of recent flooding from Storm Desmond. Residents of Shiremoor, Monkseaton, Preston Village and elsewhere know only too well the damage flooding can cause. The word which crops up again and again to describe the rainfall is “unprecedented” and record water levels are broken with growing frequency.
The money being invested in flood defences, including local relief schemes, we are told is increasing. The Governments Emergency Committee – COBRA – meets frequently to reassure us that all which can be done is being done to rescue people and clear up the mess. I remain sceptical however that our frontline emergency services and local authorities will be able to respond as effectively if budgets go on being cut.
I am no scientist but there seems clear evidence of a link between climate change and changes in weather patterns. Though too late to prevent recent floods, the Climate Change Summit in Paris has to take steps to reduce emissions and global warming. We were the first country to legislate through the Climate Change Act with its 80% reduction target by 2050. Paris must go further. Technology is cutting solar and wind energy prices and provided the cost of action does not fall on poorer countries or poorer people we need to see tougher targets. The question is less can we afford to act and more can we afford not to?