Up to Your Graun in Flood and Bullet Points

Floods in Germany and Belgium which have killed at least a hundred, probably several hundreds of people, is by far the biggest environmental disaster to have hit Europe in years. The Guardian carries the story in their international edition and on their environment page, but only in second or third place, the main headline being criticism of the EU for allowing the burning of forest trees. 

This massive story of the threat to arboreal diversity is based on quotes from just two environmentalist activists, the wonderfully named Sini Eräjää from Greenpeace and Lina Burnelius from Protect the Forest Sweden. The Guardian also quotes the official point of viewfromthe EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius. (Somehow nobody thought to solicit the opinions of our spokesperson Scepticus, or our sponsor Bigus Petrolius.)

Even odder is the fact that the threat to old European forests highlighted in the headline article comes from a minor detail in the EU Commission’s legislative proposals on climate and energy published on July 14th – or “Plan to Tackle Global Heating” as the Guardian calls it – a plan which the Guardian publicised in a single “question and answer” article three days ago, without any links to the original documents.

Everyone else is covering the EU proposals as a Big Deal:

EU climate package unlikely to survive contact with reality as key industries revolt”-Financial Times

Much-hyped EU climate package marred by growing divisions over cost”– Financial Times again.

“Brussels braces for climate blowback”– Politico

EU climate plan dead on arrival as Hungary announces it will veto it”– Bloomberg

(Long extracts from these paywalled articles can be found on the site of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.)

But not the Guardian, whose policy with respect to the EU, and Germany in particular, seems to be: “Whatever you do, don’t mention the climate.”

Or at least, don’t mention “climate” and “EU” in the same breath, in case our Europhile readers accidentally discover that EU policy is not only formed in secret by unelected Commissioners, but is incoherent, contradictory, unpopular, and every bit as insane as UK policy as formulated by Carrie Johnson, or XR, or Greta, or whoever’s in charge this week.

The Guardian gets round its self-imposed Omerta on the German disaster with this article which, since I started writing this post, has been promoted to top of the Environment page. Once again, a major crisis is reduced to an account of the emotional reaction of two quoted experts. But while the threat to Europe’s trees is hypothetical, the deaths in Germany are real.

Climate scientists shocked by scale of floods in Germany

The intensity and scale of the floods in Germany this week have shocked climate scientists, who did not expect records to be broken this much, over such a wide area or this soon.

So how much is this much, how wide an area is such, and how soon is this?

The article provides answers (The author, Jonathan Watts, used to be a science correspondent before he got promoted.)

Precipitation records were smashed across a wide area of the Rhine basin on Wednesday [… ] “I am surprised by how far it is above the previous record,” Dieter Gerten, professor of global change climatology and hydrology at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said … Gerten, who grew up in a village in the affected area, said it occasionally flooded, but not like this week. Previous summer downpours have been as heavy, but have hit a smaller area.

Tell me again, the Rhine Basin represents what proportion of the earth’s surface? 1%? 0.1%? A lot more than the village where our climate scientit grew up, that’s obvious. A hugely lot more. 

The city of Hagen declared a state of emergency after the Volme burst its banks and its waters rose to levels not seen more than four times a century.

So that’s how soon– roughly 25 years after the last example of global weirding in the neighbourhood.

After the deadly heatwave in the US and Canada, where temperatures rose above 49.6C two weeks ago, the deluge in central Europe has raised fears that human-caused climate disruption is making extreme weather even worse than predicted. 

Worse than predicted by whom? Not worse than predicted by those who predicted that Manhattan and Bangladesh would be underwater by now. Or that there would be millions of climate refugees. There are hundreds (some say more than a thousand) missing in Germany, but no one is actually leaving permanently because it rained hard on them for twelve hours.

“With climate change we do expect all hydro-meteorological extremes to become more extreme. What we have seen in Germany is broadly consistent with this trend.” said Carlo Buontempo, the director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

[“Buontempo” really does mean “nice weather,” but let it pass.

No I won’t. It’s too good to let it pass. Even better than the fact that the guy in charge of Europe’s climate plans is a Virginijus. And vičius with it.

Oh, very well. Have your silly joke. But don’t blame me if no-one takes us seriously.] 

The seven hottest years in recorded history have occurred since 2014, largely as a result of global heating, which is caused by engine exhaust fumes, forest burning and other human activities.

The author Jonathan Watts has a second article on the floods and climate: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/16/what-is-causing-floods-europe-climate-change “What is causing the floods in Europe?” which contains this oddly familiar sentence:

Human emissions from engine exhaust fumes, forest burning and other activities are heating the planet.

(Wot, no CO2? no fossil fuels? The energy revolution that has transformed the lives of billions of people, half of whom would have been dead before adulthood without it, is subsumed under “other activities.” And CO2 is not mentioned, relegated to just another “engine exhaust fume.” After the photoshopped images of black clouds of CO2 rising from cooling towers expect photos of Kleenex soiled by CO2 particles, X-rays of lungs rotted by greenhouse gases etc.)

My experience writing hundreds of articles tells me that when a writer repeats the same phrase in consecutive articles, he is either inordinately proud of his discovery, or he is lying.

My experience in market research tells me that the Graun, or possibly their allies in government, has been conducting focus groups which show that the public has had it up to here with carbon pricing, CO2 and greenhouse gases. What they care about this year is exhaust fumes and the destruction of virgin Swedish forest. Last year it was polar bears and puberty crises among Swedish adolescents. Next year it will be the uselessness of heat pumps and EV charging point rage. Better strike while the iron is heating, with an article headlined “Climate scientists shocked..” quoting just two climate scientists, one of whom grew up in the area where hundreds died, and the other of whom’s (can you do that? A double genitive?) name means “Nice weather.”

Back to Germany, where hundreds are missing. In a densely populated country where everyone has a portable telephone, “missing” probably means dead, more often than not.

I know nothing about Germany’s geology or hydrology or flood preparedness. And nothing in the media is going to enlighten me. We’ve all done geography O-level, and have a vague understanding of erosion and types of soil and so on, yet I’ve not seen a single journalist who has even mentioned the kind of basics that any traveller in previous centuries would have had at his fingertips. Read any book of travel, whether it’s Goethe in Italy in the 18thcentury, or William Dalrymple or Robert Byron in Afghanistan in the twentieth. They’re agog to understand everything about how the country functions, from the geology to the folk dances. The journalists I’ve seen standing in German villages the past few days are about as curious as a tide gauge and as informative as a wellington boot.

Here in France killer floods occur several times a year. Some people love to build their dream homes on top of or underneath cliffs, or in narrow river valleys subject to flash floods. You can view it as Nature’s way of weeding out the eco-romantics, (and increasing insurance premiums for the rest of us.) In two of the past three years the Seine has flooded, bringing weeks and weeks of images of inhabitants of the Paris suburbs in wellies rescuing their pets and sound systems, muttering “I’ve never seen anything like it, in all the five years I’ve lived here.”

And just once in scores of hours of viewing I’ve seen an interview with a hydrologist, who noted that there was an urgent need to build a reservoir upstream of P aris, which would cost a billion. And not once have I seen an interview with the minister responsible. Because in a country which was the Church’s Favourite Daughter for a thousand years, and despite the fiercely secular laws which mean you can’t stick a scarf over your head without being accused of being a friend of the headchoppers, heavy rainfall is still treated as if it were an Act of God. It’s almost as if doing something to stop people’s houses being washed away would be – blasphemous? Or tempting Fate? Or a waste of time given that in 15 years’ time the petrol engine will be banned and people won’t know what a flood is?

In the meantime, the same twats are interviewed in the same flooded garages, year after year, and the only thing that changes is the new car, bought with my increased insurance premiums. And no-one is ever going to ask awkward questions of the Minister of the Environment about why the same rivers flood every year, and why not employ thousands of people in Green Jobs building dams and reservoirs and sluices and whatnot?

For twenty years or so climate catastrophists have been warning us about precisely the kind of event we’ve just seen. Whether they are correct in attributing it to climate change is irrelevant to my argument here. Whether it’s a once in a millennium event, or a once in a decade event because of climate change, doesn’t effect the kinds of actions that must be taken. However dodgy or unfounded the Science, the reasons for raising the possibility of such a disaster were uncontroversial, and the methods for dealing it remain the same. Yet all the media reaction I’ve seen, despite the wealth of images from telephones, drones and helicopters, seems like a deliberate attempt to avoid explaining what’s going on. The journalists commenting seem blind to the images in front of them. You’re looking at what seems to be a forty ton truck squashed between two concrete blocks on a flooded Autobahn. So what’s going on? An Autobahn doesn’t just flood like that. Something is happening and you don’t know what it is. The journalist has come with his spiel prepared on climate change, and he’s not going to bother his head about the actual events unfolding before his eyes. He’s of the generation which spends the plane journey texting and never once looks out at the earth below him. And he thinks he cares about the planet.

Environmentalists are not particularly interested in the planet, as such. Not enough to, say, study a bit of basic geology or atmospheric physics. And they hate us. They hate our houses built on flood plains. They hate our cars washed away by flash floods caused by our carbon greed. They warned us that millions would die because of our carbon-emitting sins, and Lo, it came to pass (for hundreds, anyway.) The Guardian is silent on the human tragedy of hundreds of deaths in a neighbouring country because its brain has been captured by climate fanatics who think: “Serves you right,” but its soul (which its atheist, historically ignorant journalists would deny having) is still Wesleyian, bless it, so it feels guilty, and changes the subject to trees.There are images on the telly of cliffs crumbling, bridges washed away, roads ending abruptly at a (man-made?) precipice. And no-one asks why. Because that would be to question our control of the environment, right? Which is in the hands of people we trust, right? So no-one asks why a sophisticated society couldn’t prevent a weird, once-in-25-years event, in case the answer lies in the remit of a nice ecologist person who happens to be the Minister responsible and who can’t possibly be suspected of failing in her duty to, er, reduce our carbon emissions to zero whatever the cost. And do you think she’s going to ask for a billion euros to swamp some valley with bulldozers, just to prevent a few thousand Le Pen voters from having to don their wellies every autumn to sweep out their flooded basements? When for the same money she could have a dozen TV ad campaigns for green home insulation and subsidies for a few hundred wind farms, with enough left over to hire ten personal image consultants?

All over the world now we run complex systems providing drinking water, transport, electricity, gas, telephone and satellite communications. But the rivers that provide that water, (and often transport and electricity) remain mysteries that are assumed to be largely outside our control. Perhaps they should be privatised? If the Thames say, belonged to that urbane spaceman Richard Branson, maybe it would behave better, under threat of a class action?

Rivers were sacred long before France became the favourite Daughter of the Church. So perhaps we should forget the hydrologists and go back to Strabo and the Pseudo Plutarch. 

Or maybe not so far back – to Edward Dahlberg’s “Sorrows of Priapus:”

America is battle earth and its rivers are great water brutes; the Rio Negro, the Parana, Da Pratz, are unsocial waters, the navel strings of Ocean. Sea calves and whales swim in the bays and at the mouths of the rivers where the bivalves sing. The River of Toads is hard by the River of Saint Francis...

When rivers age, and grow small and mild, Daniel, Artemis and Pan frequent their banks. Water in its dotage is the cause of a psalm or a poem, for Neptune, Poseidon, and Proteus, who are water, are old men, and the swan’s most poignant song is known as his senilia, and the River Strymon was his ancient home.

Our annals are weak, and we know not our rivers … These rivers are immense legends and would cure us of many ills, did we know them, for all nature is our corpus, and once we relinquish a part of the earth, we lose, in some way, the use of our hands, feet, loins, and spirit.

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July 17, 2021 at 04:04PM

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