UK floods: the heart attack after not going to the doctor.

Floods are causing distress throughout many parts of the UK, and I am fortunate that the only discomfort that I am feeling is severe frustration. I may find it difficult in the next few paragraphs to articulate my fears, so I apologise for any lack of clarity in advance.

I cannot believe that we are still here, in 2014, largely dismissing the possibility – or, in my view, the probability – that the extreme weather events we have seen recently are the result of climate change accelerated by the human race. I actually cannot believe it. In 2006, when a work colleague alerted me to this issue, I went away and read as much of the science around this issue as I could. I didn’t want to acknowledge the enormity of the growing problem at first: the range of challenges that our world would face was overwhelming. For some reason, though, the threat which stood out above all was that posed by rising sea levels. I think, quite simply, because this is the worst thing about floods: they meet you in your home, at your doorstep. There’s nowhere else to run after that, when the danger is lapping at the entrance of your refuge.

And this is where I feel such frustration. I feel the same frustration that I might feel if I had been telling a friend for months to go to the doctor to get that terrible chest pain of theirs checked out, and they ignore my concern only to suffer a heart attack. And my feeling is exactly this: a grim concern, not the detached smugness of “I told you so”, but a worry that they may not be able to recuperate, since the health problem may be too far gone. Because we have wasted so much time. We have wasted so much time indulging xenophobia at the imaginary floods of Romanians and Bulgarians from the EU whilst the very real floods have been arriving with increasing insistence each year. We should have been looking instead at how we could adapt to a world where extreme weather events are more and more common.

Climate change is not, in the end, a political issue. After all, those floods will happily converge on the homes of liberal and conservative voters alike.  The key question, in my view, is whether we will make smart estimates about the funding needed to mitigate the effects of such floods in future. Otherwise, I wonder how just many more warnings we will need.

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