Rain – no quick fixes for it


Mark Carney says UK floods will cost £14bn per month in economic damage. Yep.


Cost to deal with climate change and floods ahead of time would have been a fraction of that:


Quote THAT the next time some poorly informed pundit with a reactionary bias like Christopher Booker or our Environment Minister says “we can’t afford to deal with climate change”. These people need to look up the word “externality” in an economic context.

At the last count, some 20x to 40x more rain has fallen than can fit into our rivers and drains. NOTHING could have stopped it becoming floods. Well, nothing, except perhaps:

  • not deforesting the hills,
  • not putting Tarmac over the land,
  • not mining peat,
  • not building dense concrete structures near rivers,
  • not narrowing rivers for bridges,
  • not building harbours and
  • not building homes on flood plains.

We are seeing this winter what failing to understand ecosystem and weather variability risk over 200 years looks like. What failing to plan looks like, and what failing to understand that the ecosystem and environment around us is actually worth in cold hard (and wet) cash terms.

As Cnut said:

 “my men, learn a lesson from what you have seen. There is only one King who is all-powerful; and it is he who rules the sea, and holds the ocean in the hollow of his hand. It is he whom you ought to praise and serve above all others.”

– not something that David Cameron has read then…

Back a few hundred years ago, the great Somerset levels flood of 1607 did cause some long term drainage planning http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King’s_Sedgemoor_Drain but that has backfired by drying out the peat, dropping soil levels and encouraging ‘grass tarmac’ on hillsides thus exacerbating the current floods. All those ill informed screams in the media for “dredging rivers” are simply not aware that hundreds of years of research, from New Orleans to Bangladesh shows that dredging always makes later serious  floods worse (if it might also make minor floods a little less common).

This will not be over soon. In a month’s time the HUGE damage to river banks, bridges, rail lines and drains will be clearer. Then the houses will start to crack and subside. Larger building modern buildings may be less at risk, but large OLD buildings may be in serious trouble. Saturated soil loses most of its strength, then rises and heaves, then will settle over the coming year. Old drains – that many have forgotten about – will have blocked with silt. Field drains will have clogged. Silt and debris will clog rivers and streams. So any new rain will lead to small, local floods. Roads will have heaved up, been undermined, then sink down again. The height clearance under bridges may have changed (LOL for lorry drivers?). Train tracks that have moved even 1cm will be lethal, so will have to be rechecked microscopically.

As it is, estimates from UK Environment Agency are that water levels may retreat by, say, May 2014. 4 months. £56bn of economic loss and around £2bn to £5bn in home and infrastructure damage.

This is what we are headed for:

  • UK Flood annual damage costs: £1.5 bn (average over 20 years before 2013)
  •  By 2080s it will be £30 bn per year (average)
  •  In UK out of 28 million properties – more than 6 million are at risk of flooding
  •   Over half the population live near the coast
  •  At present no planned impact to US and UK national economies
  •  National economies will be significantly affected by 2080s

Might it actually be time for even the hard boiled reactionary eco-haters and climate change deniers to actually address the economic facts?