The flooding in Germany and Belgium which has 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 view from the 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 Methodist, 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 foresee 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.

45 Comments

  1. I have long thought that of the two arms of climate spending under the Paris Agreement, that on mitigation is completely pointless, and that on adaptation is extremely important. Mitigation is pointless because in all probability climate change is at least in part natural, and is pointless also because as the world’s human population continues to grow, and as the developing world not unreasonably seeks to improve the quality of life of its residents, the idea that GHGs can be reduced, or even controlled, is absolutely fanciful.

    In fairness to those who designed and drafted the Paris Agreement, adaptation is a large part of what it is about. However, reading/watching/listening to the MSM (and especially the Guardian and the BBC) would not give you that impression – you would be left thinking that it’s “mitigation or bust”.

    In the case of the German (and Dutch/Belgian) tragedy, I am not at all keen to make any sceptic points out of such a horrible event, but it might be worth pointing out that reports are starting to emerge along the lines of the German authorities having been warned in advance that unusually heavy rainfall might lead to devastating flooding this month, but that the authorities failed to act. If so (and I stress the “if”, since I don’t know) that strikes me as far more culpable than failing to act to cut CO2 emissions.

    Finally, pictures are also emerging of streets in the affected regions, with markers on the sides of buildings showing the heights of previous floods. Having visited Germany and seen these things for myself in the past, I tend to believe that they are genuine pictures, not hoaxes, though my natural mistrust of the internet and scepticism is kicking in, and leads me to issue a caveat against accepting the pictures as being necessarily true and accurate. However, if they ARE accurate, then there have been some mighty floods there in the past, and some of the 13th century floods must have been epic in their magnitude. I don’t know whether the recent flood is a once in a 25 year event, or the worst flood for 200 years (as it was labelled in one Guardian headline) but clearly the flooding is not unprecedented, and that being the case someone in authority should have been thinking long and hard about adaptation measures rather than wondering how to reduce CO2 emissions.

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  2. MARK

    reading/watching/listening to the MSM … you would be left thinking that it’s “mitigation or bust”.

    Exactly. Climate activists, ex-ministers of ecology, climate scientists are all over the French media at the moment, and, when asked “What should be done about the German/Belgian floods?” the answer is always “reduce our emissions.” Nothing about dams, river banks, expensive and no doubt technically complex water management. It’s politically explosive, because it’s expensive, with no immediate gain; environmentalists don’t want you messing with nature, farmers don’t want limitations on their irrigation; local councils may be under more pressure from their local angling club than concerned about a hypothetical flood probably downstream and outside their borders. And the very people who are motivated and supposedly concerned about the environment are obsessing over Chinese coal plants or whatever.

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  3. It is even more amazing to realise that climate predictions of over 75 years are accepted as firm facts, demanding urgent action now, whereas severe weather predictions for 9 days ahead (or 4 days, stories vary) involving danger to life and property are ignored. And even after the damaging events, belief in our knowledge of climate remains untrammelled.

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  4. Paul Homewood has an important post
    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2021/07/18/the-real-reason-for-germanys-flood-disaster-a-monumental-failure-of-the-warning-system/
    quoting at length an article in today’s Sunday Times which explains a lot, thanks to a hydrologist at Reading University who was part of a team dealing precisely with this disaster.

    And I’ve altered the above post changing “prevent” to “foresee.” A problem of franglais, since “prevenir” in French means to foresee and not to prevent.

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  5. BBC weather person Chris Fawkes has described with graphics that this north European flooding was down to unusual but observable jet stream patterns.

    Elsewhere there are articles proposing that such patterns are more likely to occur during solar minima, especially the low ones of 2008-10 and 2019 to now. At such times the Earth’s atmosphere shrinks which compresses the jet streams, apparently. In turn this can lead to these ‘extreme’ weather events if conditions are right.

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  6. one BBC reporter on the scene interviewed a first responder guy (not sure what agency) who made a passing comment about the ground in the area being sand from an ancient sea !!! and made a comparison to sand castle being washed away by the sea (think I heard that correctly – but the reporter never followed that up),

    wonder why ?

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  7. “Angela Merkel says Germany must do more to fight climate crisis
    Chancellor surveys flood damage and meets survivors as German death toll passes 150 with dozens missing”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/18/angela-merkel-to-visit-flood-ravaged-areas-in-germany

    Not a single word about the possible failure of the authorities to respond to early warnings that floods were in prospect.

    Compare and contrast the Sunday Times story:

    “Germany knew the floods were coming, but the warnings didn’t work
    Weather scientists say a ‘monumental failure of the system’ is directly to blame for the death and devastation triggered by a month’s worth of rain that fell in two days this week”

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/germany-knew-the-floods-were-coming-but-the-warnings-didnt-work-cn99wjxzs

    It’s behind a paywall, but quite a lot of it can be read at GWPF and/or Paul Homewood’s website.

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  8. bit O/T – but Alan,Jit,anyone – “Flood Pulse Irrigation of Meadows Shapes Soil Chemical and
    Microbial Parameters More Than Mineral Fertilization”

    just wondering if they flooded this area yearly, when I saw the pics of land/fields washed away it looked strange !!

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  9. The reported “record “rainfall in 24 hours in the area was 100-150 mm ( or as the Guardian likes to put it “450 litres per square metre” ( How many Olympic sized swimming pools is that? ) . This magnitude of rainfall is certainly not unprecedented in western Europe. The Lynmouth flood of 1952 in Devon had a 24-hour rainfall of 229 mm and that wasn’t the first large flood event. Similar floods had been recorded at Lynmouth in 1607 and 1796.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynmouth_Flood
    Extreme rainfalls have regularly occurred at various locations around the world and will continue to occur however many EVs we drive. It would be prohibitively expensive to construct flood control works for numerous villages in Europe located in narrow valleys. These communities developed without knowledge of the flood potential and were not planned with large floods in mind. The drainage pipes fill up and the road system has to carry the excess flow.
    Modern residential developments on hillsides use two standards of flood design magnitude. The piped drainage system is usually designed for something like a 1 in 10-year flood event. However the road layout is typically designed for overland flow of a larger event such as a 100-year flood. For these events the piped drainage system is overwhelmed but the houses do not flood. Of course much larger events than 100-year events can occur but with the road layout designed to carry much of the flow the damage would be limited.

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  10. A report half-way between the Guardian and the Sunday Times:

    “Merkel pledges stronger post-flood focus on ‘climate protection’”

    https://www.politico.eu/article/merkel-pledges-stronger-post-flood-focus-on-climate-protection/

    “German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday promised a stronger government focus on climate protection following the deadly floods that have ravaged parts of Germany and neighboring countries.

    “The German language knows hardly any words for this devastation,” Merkel said during a visit to flood-stricken areas in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate. “We have to hurry to fight climate change.”

    At a news conference in the severely damaged town of Schuld, Merkel said her government would “counteract this natural disaster in the short term, but also in the medium term and in the long term: We’ll be ensuring that we focus our policymaking more on climate protection that we have in recent years.”

    “This is clearly very necessary,” she added.”

    Sort of an admission there that the focus of the German government has been in the wrong area, though still holding on to the “fight climate change” mantra, at the same time. It would be nice to think that reality is dawning. Decades of banging on about climate change and no doubt £$trillions spent on it along the way, yet the floods still happened (as they have happened in the past). How much better it would have been if just some of that money had been diverted to adaptation.

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  11. POTENTILLA
    That’s precisely the kind of information that’s missing from the media coverage. Professor Hannah Cloke, quoted in the Sunday Times article quoted by Homewood and the GWPF has sensible things to say in a Guardian article from 2014.

    The problem is that the media are not only ignorant, but they don’t know how ignorant they are. “Disaster = climate = reduce your carbon footprint.” They can’t think outside their brainwashed box.

    A new article in the Guardian claims to illustrate the disaster with before and after photos that show no disaster at all. It shows a raised motorway crossing a river, with the bend in the river under the motorway flooded and the motorway unaffected. These people are literally blind to the evidence before their eyes.

    Of course, this is the same Guardian that illustrates the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan with a picture of six brave veiled ladies ready to defend their country from the Taliban. There’s no hope for them, and no hope for us as long as the mainstream media is considered as a serious source of information.

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  12. Geoff:

    That’s precisely the kind of information that’s missing from the media coverage. … The problem is that the media are not only ignorant, but they don’t know how ignorant they are. “Disaster = climate = reduce your carbon footprint.” They can’t think outside their brainwashed box.

    As I set foot on Cliscep again, I’m grateful for this example of alarmist absurdity being used to frame another serious news item, occluding everything from modern hydrology to common sense.

    Two weeks ago exactly Dominic Cummings embarked on his second “Ask Me Anything” on his new Substack account. I’d stumped up £10 to read what he really thought of Boris. But the inanity of the Guardian here, and much else of the MSM, reminded me of this interaction on the first day of the AMA:

    Lowestoft:
    Dominic, I have a Mother-in-Law is thinks Boris is doing an amazing job. I think he is unfit to be PM and is responsible for literally thousands of deaths that could have easily been saved. The fact he shows no remorse over his own actions and believes (or lied to himself to believe) that he did everything he could to save peoples lives is despicable. My point is that whatever reasonable argument I use to show my MIL that Boris is the most unfit PM we have ever had, she counters by regurgitating his narrative. I’ve even suggested she come on here to see what really happened but she doesnt believe anything you write is the truth.

    Are you concerned that UK politics is starting to mirror US voters where facts are completely ignored, politicians feel no shame in rewriting history and voters simply vote based on sound bites? Or was it ever thus?

    Secondary question – You’ve made the principled decision to use this vehicle as a mouth-piece for your experience, but are you concerned that by excluding the press (especially the right wing press), you will never be able to reach my Mother-in-Law and potentially millions of like minded voters who refuse to believe anyone else apart from the PM?

    Dominic Cummings:
    Combo of MSM losing £/customers, their business models failing is making them more and more crazy/deluded/spreading nonsense… Definitely social media making some things worse, though MSM is a much bigger problem… Overall tho misinformation much less of a problem now than in 1930s, so I also think much hysteria is overdone. Look at how Stalin was covered – THAT is much much worse than anything in last few years, and stems from highly centralised information control.

    Richard Drake:
    Good answer!

    I think I was the only person to have the temerity to do that. Social media gives us the option to be properly educated, for instance by potentilla and Alan Kendall here. We forget just how bad the situation was in days past. That too should give us hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Meanwhile, back in Germany:

    “Germany floods: Government rejects criticism over flood warnings”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-57890650

    “Germany’s government has hit back at criticism over its warning systems after the worst flooding in decades left at least 160 people dead.

    The deluge caught many off guard, sweeping away houses and leaving residents trapped in rising waters. More than 170 people are still missing.

    The opposition Green Party said the disaster showed Germany must prepare better for extreme weather events.

    But Interior Minister Horst Seehofer defended the government’s actions.

    Local communities should decide how to respond, he said. Under Germany’s political system, regional states are responsible for emergency efforts.

    “It would be completely inconceivable for such a catastrophe to be managed centrally from any one place – you need local knowledge,” he said.

    He called the criticism “cheap election rhetoric”. Germany votes in September to elect a successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel. She is retiring after 16 years in power.

    Flood warning systems sent out alerts a few days before the heavy rain. However, they failed to reach many residents or officials in time.

    Armin Schuster, head of the Federal Office for Civil Protection, said “the warning infrastructure wasn’t our problem, but the effectiveness with which authorities and the population reacted to these warnings”.

    He said “we sent out 150 warnings via our apps, via the media”. But in many cases, he said, it was impossible to predict even half an hour ahead which places would be hit hardest.

    But some have questioned the usefulness of warning apps, as the floods severed many phone links.”

    One might have thought that just warning people they are about to be flooded, although better than nothing, isn’t MUCH better than nothing. Seriously analysing risks from extreme weather, implementing detailed planning, and taking long-term actions to reduce the damage caused by extreme weather events might be considered a more responsible policy.

    By the way, and completely O/T, has anyone else noticed the increasing propensity of the BBC to drop the use of the possessive when dealing with countries? “Germany floods” is a description of an event, yet the BBC means it in the sense of “floods in Germany” or “German floods”. Why have they changed their house style? They do this sort of thing all the time now.

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  14. Geoff: I always appreciate your perspective. “Disaster = climate = reduce your carbon footprint”. Brilliant. The Guardian environmental reporting is pathetic. So many journalists without any science background.
    The German president: “Only if we decisively take up the fight against climate change will we be able to limit the extreme weather conditions we are now experiencing”
    The climate change extreme event propaganda has been too successful. Politicians seem to believe that if we reduce carbon emissions everything will be OK. It’s not just that extreme floods have always occurred and will continue whatever carbon reductions are achieved but that so many communities have inadequate flood protection for the conditions of today. Nevertheless, despite the political focus on carbon reduction, one benefit has been that more investment is going into flood protection and floodplain regulation compared with 20 years ago.

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  15. Potentilla. You lament the absence of a science background of Guardian environmental reporters, but is this really the problem? Most are simply reporting climate scientists’ opinions, or those making political hay from them. Those reports include ignoring inconvenient facts and over-emphasising others. But all reporters, of whatever stable do this not just the Guardian, Remember also that Angela Merkel has a science background, yet proceeds along the same well worn path of “Disaster = climate = reduce your carbon footprint”.

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  16. Richard
    Will be using your ten quids worth of access to the great man to ask a question relating to climate? Given his views on efficient and rational government, I don’t se how he could be anything but a sceptic, possibly of the Pielke/Ridley kind. It would be necessary to frame it carefully, so as not to trap him into a position where he could be identified as just another loony denier.

    I’m off to England and will be out of contact for a week. Nice to see lively discussion and old friends returning.

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  17. Potentilla, Alan Kendall
    One would think a struggling mainstream media organisation like the Guardian would love to have the considered views of a hydrologist and a geologist. Have you tried commenting there? I’m not sure there are any articles on the flood disaster with comments yet. But it would be interesting to see what reaction you get.

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  18. Geoff. I believe I might be on the Guardian’s banned list. There was a time when they published letters of mine (those that CRU objected to my identifying myself as being employed by UEA) but possibly as a result of intervention by persons unknown, nary another got a lookin (and I tried). I doubt very much if anything from me today would get the time of. Plus I know very little about the Rhinelands, last being there more than a quarter of a century ago.

    The only geological fact I could add is that the Rhinelands are not made of loose sand as was reported somewhere, but of slates with some volcanics. I recall collecting beautiful tiny Devonian pyritised ammonoids from them, simply eons ago.

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  19. Richard
    Will be using your ten quids worth of access to the great man to ask a question relating to climate?

    Probably not, because people had already asked about Net Zero by the time I took a look on the Friday and later Cummings responded, though not at great length. He’s hoping better technology will make the problem go away. He tacitly accepts Lindzen’s point about absurdity, I would say.

    People were able to ask questions from Friday 2nd July and DC began to answer, as advertised, on 5th, after a damning yet hilarious account of Boris in action (and inaction). On 2nd one person who sounded like he had more savings than me had asked this:

    Are you aware of some of the topics Bret Weinstein has been covering over the last few months? I’m starting to change my financial positions because of them, so I think they are very substantial. Thanks

    Followed by two links to Bret’s podcast interviews on vaccine escape and Ivermectin censorship. I at once added Weinstein’s more recent discussion with Robert Malone and Steve Kirsch on vaccine hazards – a video I became aware of through Jaime Jessop’s blog. DC replied to the original poster six days later:

    I dont think BW is right on vaccines.

    Follow e.g Yuri Deigin who recenty pointed out errors in what BW says re vaccines

    Hmm I thought. I cross swords with the great man so soon? I began:

    Yuri Deigin is certainly good at the trash-talk that seems to precede any serious scientific debate these days (and hopefully not replace it).

    See the allusion to the climate debate there? I ended up doing four contributions on Weinstein. They signal a change of emphasis from me on covid vaccines, as the alert Cliscep reader will detect, though I still have loads of questions. But such is life, I would say, if one is a genuine sceptic.

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  20. Curious news, or clever politics:

    “Germany’s Greens cautious over linking floods to climate crisis
    Party leaders hope public will draw its own conclusions from last week’s catastrophic floods”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/20/germanys-greens-cautious-over-linking-floods-to-climate-crisis

    “…the German Greens in July 2021 are noticeably cautious of drawing an explicit link between the climate emergency and weather that has devastated towns across the country and claimed the lives of at least 164 people.

    Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ candidate for chancellor, cut short her summer holiday to visit the affected area last week but declined to take TV camera crews with her. Her co-leader, Robert Habeck, sent a video message from northern Germany: “Now is the time of rescue helpers and not politicians like me, who would only stand in their way”, he said.

    One Green delegate, Konstantin von Notz, on Wednesday posted a picture of upended cars amid floodwater and debris on Twitter, criticising other parties’ reluctance to commit to carbon reduction measures and insisting only his party would make climate protection “priority number one”. Within 24 hours, Von Notz deleted and apologised for his “polemical tweet”.

    When Baerbock finally spoke up on Monday, giving an interview to news magazine Der Spiegel, she listed “ambitious climate protection” measures only as the third of three steps required to address the situation: centralising the country’s disaster management system and adjusting the design of German cities and waterways to prepare for future floods, she insisted, were of equal importance.

    The strategic thinking rests on the hope that the electorate will draw its own connection between the increase of freak weather events and a climate crisis unfolding over the long term. Making the link explicit would open up the Greens to charges of politicising a catastrophe before the bodies of the dead have been recovered, and playing into its image as a Besserwisserpartei, a party of know-it-alls….”.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. @Alan – thanks for the input re sand in Germany & the “with some volcanics” hint.

    I found this link – https://www.agefotostock.com/age/en/details-photo/lava-sand-quarrying-germany-rhineland-palatinate-naturpark-vulkaneifel/BWI-BS327887

    this may explain why my above comment – “a first responder guy (not sure what agency) who made a passing comment about the ground in the area being sand from an ancient sea” got the info/gist a bit garbled.

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  22. The Ahr valley is a narrow slate valley, that acts as a funnel, the last big flood was in 1910, just outside of living memory. In the mean time, they straightened the tributaries, built in flood planes and straightened drainage gullies from the vineyards to the valley. Disaster waiting to happen.
    Belgium has similar geology, Valkenburg NL is a limestone floodplain with no storage capacity for a centennial flood. People never learn: floodplains are nice and flat to build upon.

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  23. Not only are flood plains nice and flat for building upon, but many are nice and flat and have fertile soils upon which all sorts of plants. Commonly flood plains may be the only lands upon which farmers can grow crops. So agricultural settlements also grow there and periodically flood.

    It’s no good berating our ancestors for doing the sensible thing, even if the occasional flood causes havoc.

    Not everyone can have the luxury of siting a home upon an old abandoned flood plain now siting high a dry after the river cut down to a lower level. My parents wisely did this in the London suburbs (although I doubt they knew of their wisdom), whereas aunts and uncles lived on the present day Thames flood plain and occasionally got flooded.

    One task (set by an eccentric Geography teacher after we had taken our final exams but were still having to go to school for several weeks) was to go out and map sudden changes in level in our local road system. When we got back, our teacher got out the local geological map and drew our attention to the correspondence between our map and the different river terraces – the slopes defining the boundaries of each terrace. What we had been doing was inadvertently mapping these old terraces and, at the same time, showing me how inadvertently wise my parents had been in their house selection.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Geoff: I used to comment at the Guardian but many of my comments were simply deleted. If you provide a hydrological and engineering perspective it is often not in line with what is considered acceptable. Quite astonishing.
    Alan: I agree that all journalists have a tendency to push a narrative and unfortunately this is eventually picked up by politicians. But any journalist who comes up with representing rainfall as 430 litres per square metre should not be reporting in a major newspaper.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Although I will admit to not having tried very hard, I still haven’t got to the bottom of just how unusual the rainfall has been for the area affected. Locals are saying that it has been 100 years since this amount of rain had previously fallen in such a short time-span. So the journalists then immediately dub it a ‘1 in 100 years’ event. Well, of course, the first does not imply the second. A ‘1 in 100 years’ event is actually defined as one that has a 1 percent chance of happening in a given year. If you do the maths, this means that there is a 63% chance of it happening in any given 100 year period (you have to wait about 500 years to be pretty sure of its occurrence). This gives it a 40% chance of happening twice in 100 years (as the locals attest).

    So it could very well be that there had been two ‘1 in 100 year’ events in the last 100 years, but two less unusual events would seem a more natural explanation. The fact is that it is very difficult to start playing the frequentist game when dealing with rare events. There just isn’t enough data to discriminate between the possibilities. We can go back to the climate models and play the ‘increased risk game’ based upon what the models predict with and without AGW, but this is even more problematic when dealing with local weather phenomena, driven by patterns that aren’t easily reproducible within the models, at least to the required fidelity.

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  26. Potentilla. Newspapers also need a scientifically-literate editor or sub-editor who should be capable of spotting blatent arithmetical errors. The Guardian used to have good editors (even if they spotted errors too late and issued corrections in the subsequent edition). Now they don’t seem to care and any corrections are politically or climate biased.
    The Guardian still remains my newspaper of choice (my wife also prefers its crossword) and it is a daily challenge to identify its biases. I am helped in this by Mark’s reportage and daily selection.

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  27. Well, here’s the latest from the Guardian:

    “Catastrophic floods could hit Europe far more often, study finds
    Slow-moving storms such as recent deluge in Germany could become 14 times more frequent by 2100”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/21/catastrophic-floods-could-hit-europe-far-more-often-study-finds

    “Catastrophic floods such as those that struck Europe recently could become much more frequent as a result of global heating, researchers say.

    High-resolution computer models suggest that slow-moving storms could become 14 times more common over land by the end of the century in a worst-case scenario. The slower a storm moves, the more rain it dumps on a small area and the greater the risk of serious flooding….”

    The link to the study is here:

    https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2020GL092361

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  28. Mark,

    Yes, I too saw the newspaper reports of that study. It’s all about ‘weak steering flow’ apparently. I think it’s very interesting but I can’t also help but think that, no matter what has just happened, there will be someone with a study that says, ‘yeah, expect a lot more of that’.

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  29. Bill,

    Thank you for the link. You are right of course that it isn’t all about precipitation. However, for the moment that is what I was concentrating upon. It does at least bear upon necessary causation, if not so much the sufficient causation.

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  30. Runoff = Precipitation – Evaporation – Storage

    With forest cuts and increasing asphalt runoff will increase with same precipitation

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  31. Alan: For my sins I subscribe to the Guardian Weekly which arrives rather randomly in the mail. In the July 2 edition there is a book review of ‘How Women Can Save the Planet’ by Anne Karpf. The idea naturally is to “consider how feminist ideas can combat manmade disasters”. The reviewer kicks off with what she considers the most salient quote from the book:
    “The language around the climate crisis can conceal as much as it reveals. There is nothing ‘natural’ about the disasters that have struck our planet owing to global heating. They are the culmination of long-term environmental degradation caused by human activity”.
    Karpf is a sociologist so perhaps can be forgiven for this level of ignorance but it demonstrates now pervasive the notion has become that all extreme events are caused by climate change. Happily, reducing carbon emissions will make floods go away.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. John: You are correct with your observations about frequency analysis. However there are other factors at play. The rainfall intensity for the critical duration drives the peak of the flood. For the smaller catchments in Germany where flooding occurred the critical duration rainfall intensity may be only 6 hours or less. But rainfall frequency analysis is most commonly carried out for 24 hour periods because most long rainfall records are from manual stations that only report totals every 24 hours. The 100-year 24-hour rainfall is likely meaningless for a flood on a small catchment.
    Then there is the issue that the 100-year rainfall may not produce the 100-year flood. It depends on other factors particularly the antecedent moisture conditions. Peak flow records are much more useful for flood frequency analysis but a common problem is that even if you have a gauge, it often gets wiped out in an extreme event!
    Finally as you point out there isn’t enough data. The great hydrologist Vit Klemes used to say that you would need a 1000 years of peak flow data to adequately characterize the 100-year flood. That of course assumes the climatic time series is stationary which is unlikely even without possible anthropogenic climate change. You would also have to assume stationary land use, again unlikely.

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  33. Alarming headline:

    “2021’s extreme weather leads to insurers’ biggest payout in 10 years
    Texas polar vortex and heatwaves across US and Canada help push insurance payouts to a 10-year high”

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jul/21/2021s-extreme-weather-leads-to-insurers-biggest-payout-in-10-years

    But read on:

    “Overall economic losses came in below their 10-year median, at $93bn, Aon said. The deaths of 3,000 people were associated with natural disasters, which was also lower than the 10-year average.”

    ” Natural disasters tend to be more costly for insurers in richer countries where businesses and citizens are more likely to be insured.” And have more to lose, financially. Growing wealth inevitably leads to higher financial losses when something goes wrong. Deaths associated with natural disasters, lower than the 10 year average, surely represent the most meaningful metric of all, and is a statistic to be celebrated. But not at the Guardian, where the headlines have to be remorselessly doom-laden.

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  34. Potentilla,

    Thank you for your elaboration, all of which is highly relevant. I certainly wouldn’t wish to be thought of as someone who believes that historic rainfall records are all there is to think about. My motive was simply to point out how, even at that basic level of analysis, the press and other observers can get their statistics wrong and jump to unwarranted conclusions.

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  35. The graun thinks 100-150 mm is 450 litres/sq metre?
    They really should stop trying to
    (1) write stuff
    (2) compute stuff

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  36. “Climate change: Europe’s extreme rains made more likely by humans
    By Matt McGrath
    Environment correspondent”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-58309900

    “The heavy rainfall behind deadly flooding in Europe in July was made more likely by climate change, scientists say.

    The floods in Germany, Belgium and other parts killed at least 220 people as towns and villages were swamped.

    Researchers say global heating made rainfall events like this up to nine times more likely in Western Europe.

    Downpours in the region are 3-19% more intense because of human induced warming…

    …The severe flooding was caused by heavy rainfall over a period of 1-2 days on already sodden ground, combined with local hydrological factors such as land cover and infrastructure.”

    Two thoughts occur:

    1. A range of 3% – 19% is a pretty broad range.

    2. The flooding was caused by a variety of factors, of which heavy rain was just one (though admittedly essential) component – it was also caused by local factors “such as” land cover and infrastructure (are there other local factors not mentioned?).

    So there’s a substantial uncertainty range and heavy rain is only one factor, but guess what the headline is….

    And we get the headline, despite this:

    “While the scientists found a trend of increasing rainfall in these small regions, making a deduction about the influence of climate change was challenging, as there was also a large amount of natural variability from year to year in the local rainfall patterns.”

    However, this paragraph does offer small grounds for limited optimism:

    “This event starkly shows how societies are not resilient to current weather extremes. We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible, as well as improving emergency warning and management systems and making our infrastructure ‘climate resilient’ – to reduce casualties and costs and make them more able to withstand these extreme flooding events.”

    There does, at last, seem to be growing awareness that adaptation is at least as important as mitigation.

    The report can be found here:

    https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/heavy-rainfall-which-led-to-severe-flooding-in-western-europe-made-more-likely-by-climate-change/

    Liked by 1 person

  37. The story can also be found in the Guardian, inevitably:

    “Climate crisis made deadly German floods ‘up to nine times more likely’
    Study reinforces the hard evidence that carbon emissions are the main cause of worsening extreme weather”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/23/climate-crisis-made-deadly-german-floods-up-to-nine-times-more-likely

    Having heavily criticised the BBC elsewhere on Cliscep in the last 24 – 48 hours, I will say that I think the BBC report on the topic is more balanced than that in the Guardian.

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  38. mark:
    ”growing awareness that adaptation…”
    But once we’ve spent the trillions on mitigation, where will we find the millions for boring old dredging, reinforcing dykes, loudhailers for emergency services in their little boats out there actually saving lives?

    Liked by 1 person

  39. >“Climate crisis made deadly German floods ‘up to nine times more likely’
    Study reinforces the hard evidence that carbon emissions are the main cause of worsening extreme weather”.

    Yes, but flooding isn’t weather. It is a hydrological event caused by a number of factors, including rainfall. So even if anthropogenic contributions to climate change had made deadly floods twenty times more likely (due to the effects of rainfall) , that still does not mean one can claim it as ‘hard evidence’ that it is ‘the main cause’ of deadly flooding. To argue whether it is the main cause, one has to be able to make a comparison with the other causes. This means one would have to also know how many more times likely deadly floods would be in the presence of such other causes. I’m guessing, for example, that continued building on flood plains has increased the risk of deadly flooding by a lot more than nine times. But somehow I can’t imagine the headline:

    “Increased vulnerability to flooding made deadly German floods ‘up to fifty times more likely’
    Study reinforces the hard evidence that worsening extreme weather not the main cause of death by flooding”.

    Liked by 2 people

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