You may well have seen pictures from the severe floods in the UK over the past couple of weeks. Scotland, northern England and parts of Wales have been hit hardest following what a spokesperson for the UK Environment Agency described as ‘incredible amounts of rain’.
Our thoughts are with the people in the affected areas, whose villages and towns have been flooded, who had to be evacuated, whose homes and businesses have been damaged and who lost their belongings. We wish everyone a speedy recovery. Our hearts also go out to people in other parts of the world where we’re seeing increasingly severe and more frequent flooding. In December, over 270 people died in the extreme floods in Chennai and Tamil Nadu in India.
We asked people in affected areas in the UK if they’d like to share their experiences and thoughts with you. Here are some of the words and photos we’ve received
Frances McGuire who lives near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire wrote to tell us she had been volunteering to help with the flood recovery since Boxing Day. The Yorkshire town’s centre was completely flooded when the river burst its banks the day after Christmas. She sent in these photos.
Arthur Kincaid from Clappersgate in Cumbria told us that he has been relatively lucky. His garden has been flooded and the road to nearby Ambleside was completely under water. He wrote:
“I shudder at the pictures of whole towns flooded and people having to leave their homes and everything in them. My view of climate change hasn’t changed – it’s just been brought a bit closer to home.”
Hanna from Turriff in Aberdeenshire in Scotland thought the flooding would help more people to come together and realise the need for collective climate action:
“I think the very most important thing is, that we don’t give up: on either side: let’s keep fighting for climate justice and keep fighting against the waters at our doorstep. The best thing about this all is it shows how people get together in crisis and help each other. Let’s take this and start the new year with a great spirit of community!”
Vincent from near Newcastle-upon-Tyne wrote:
“The message people need to get is that this is ONLY THE START OF IT – climate change will only make this more typical, and worse.”
Many of you were concerned that the media wasn’t connecting the dots between climate change and the floods. Jan from Gloucester wrote:
“Something not said loudly enough is that the gulf stream is in jeopardy. The UK depends on it, yet who is talking about the very real effects of saline dilution? Will it stop or change course? I am very concerned about our children’s future and I hope that globally we join together to stop poisoning our precious home planet.”
Lindsay from Truro in Cornwall felt they’d been lucky this time and told us that it was only a matter of chance that the jet stream was further north and affected the north of England. She is concerned that the government has cut back on flood defences and allowed changes to land and river banks that prevent flood plains and increase risks for downstream communities. She wrote:
“It is a disgrace that this government puts the interests of themselves and their cronies before that of society and the environment.”
Helen Bennett from Lancaster wrote:
“I feel seriously let down by the government (and unsurprised): hot on the back of Cameron’s big words in Paris, his government massively cuts support for solar panels, breaks their promise about ‘no fracking under national parks’ whilst pushing us further into fossil fuel use, and continues to minimise its attempts to actually make constructive changes to the climate crisis. What an abysmal lack of joined-up thinking.”
That’s one of the reasons we’re joining Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to tell Prime Minister David Cameron that we need much more funding for flood defences. The devastating impact of recent UK floods served as a stark reminder that climate change is not a distant threat, it is happening now. Storm Desmond is yet more proof that we urgently need to quit climate-wrecking fossil fuels and accelerate the roll out of clean power.
Climate change increases the risks of flooding because it has made the weather in the UK wetter and extreme downpours more likely. A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, which contributes to heavier downpours. Met Office data shows that annual rainfall has been increasing in the UK since the 1980s. Five out of the 6 wettest years since records began have all occurred after the year 2000.
Yet, among all the devastation, we’ve been touched and heartened by stories of people from different backgrounds coming together to help each other in these times of crisis: strangers sending parcels to those who lost everything, Syrian refugees organising to help with flood recovery, Muslim volunteers cooking thousands of hot meals.
Amazing things can happen when we come together and we hope that events like these only strengthen the climate movement’s resolve and only lead more people to decide to take action for climate justice in 2016.