The terrible floods that have had such a disastrous affect on so many Irish communities over the Xmas/New Year period, with more severe problems on the way, are part of a much wider pattern. In this article I outline reports of flooding in roughly the same time period from around the world and then ask what political conclusions can be drawn from this.
Gerald Fleming of Met Éireann said, on New Years’s Day, that while the rain levels would not be excessive, the ground is already saturated after the wettest December on record. In
in December has been both exceptionally wet and exceptionally mild. Ireland
it has been the same story: devastating floods as a consequence of extraordinary
weather. The Meteorological Office stated
weather records have been smashed by a stormy, yet warm December. Scotland, Wales
and the north-west of
all had the wettest December in more than a century. A England mean
temperature of 8C (46F) broke records too and felt more like April or May. UK
things have been even more extreme. A wave
of severe weather events, including heavy snow, storms, flooding and tornadoes,
has claimed 43 lives across the America
over the last few days. USA
On Sunday 27 December, 11 people were killed as tornadoes swept through
Also on 27 December, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez declared a state of
emergency after a severe snow storm hit the southeastern part of the state. Dallas, Texas said. “I cannot
express how serious the situation is. The southeastern part of the state has 16
to 20 inches of snow with snow drifts of 8 to 10 feet.” Martinez
Authorities in southern
said that three adults and two children drowned on 26 December when their
vehicle was swept away. Over the weekend of 25 to 27 December, floods in Illinois left 8 people
dead. Missouri Governor, Jay Nixon, has declared a state of emergency. Missouri
Earlier storms in the south east of the country on 23 December resulted in 19 deaths. Two were reported killed in
Alabama, 10 in Mississippi, 6 in Tennessee
and one in . Arkansas
Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in
on 27 December 2015 as heavy rain,
flooding and flash flooding continued to impact much of the state. There have
been at least eight fatalities. 10 people have died in storms and floods in Missouri since 23
at Xmas, when it is normally freezing, there was warm weather and people were
out in their T-shirts. New York
It has been very much the same story in South America where
and Argentine have all experienced exceptional rainfall and serious flooding in
the last week of December.
Brazil as many as 40 municipalities have been
affected by flooding in
do Sul state,. The flooding has forced almost around 9,000 people to evacuate. Rio Grande
Several rivers in the state have overflowed, in particular the
River in Uruguaiana municipality. According to the latest reports river
levels were at 11.18 metres on 27 December, which is over 3 metres above alert
levels and over 6 metres above normal levels.
11,000 people have now been displaced according to the national emergency
department. In the city of Artigas, the Cuareim River,
a tributary of the Uruguay River, rose to
15.28 meters on Wednesday 23 December 2015.Safety levels are considered to be
Paraguay’s capital of Asunción the Paraguay River reached 7.71 metres on 24 December .This is the second
highest level ever recorded for the month of December. Then the levels went even higher and over
90,000 people in the
area around Asuncion have had to be evacuated
and other parts of
have also been hit. And in neighbouring Paraguay Argentina the overflowing Uruguay, and Paraná rivers have
forced around 25,000 from their homes. Paraguay
In the Philippines a week of severe weather has left over 40 people dead prompting the government to declare a “state of national calamity.”
The authorities say Tropical Cyclone Melor, known locally as “Nona”, made landfall on 15 December 2015, causing widespread destreuction and many deaths.. Media reported that 11 people died in the cyclone, many of them from the
, where flood
waters were as deep as 2 metres in some places. island
Melor also brought flooding to several major cities, including
which recorded 146.8 mm of rain fall in a 24 hour period to 16 December.
Authorities carried out the pre-emptive
evacuations of almost 750,000 people in anticipation of the threat of Cyclone
Currently, according to the latest reports, a total of 37,145 families or 175,168 persons are inside 526 evacuation centres and 38,601 families or 192,098 persons are outside evacuation centres,.
The cyclone was followed swiftly by a tropical depression, known locally as Storm Onyok. The storm made landfall on 18 December 2015 in Caraga and Manay, and triggered flooding and landslides. By Saturday 19 December the tropical depression had weakened into a low pressure area bringing torrential rains to the central Visayas islands and
The Philippines National Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) also reported on 20 December that the Northeast Monsoon was affecting Northern and
bringing with it the threat of flash floods and landslides.
Even worse affected was the
. Torrential rain
between 11 and 12 December 2015 caused deadly floods and landslides in eastern
and western parts of the Democratic
Republic of the Congo .
Local news reports claim that 18 people have died in eastern South Kivu and 9
in western Bas Congo
provinces. Other reports suggest floods have claimed over 30 deaths in the
capital of Congo
and other areas of the country since late November. Kinshasa
All the flooding discussed so far has occurred in the last month but it is all eclipsed by what took place in the Tamil Nadu region of
Southern India in October
and November. According to the regional government 347 people died in a flood
disaster that devastated the state capital of Chennai and other districts.
What general conclusions can we draw from this remarkable and shocking sequence of events?
The first is that although they are all reported in the mainstream media they are given very little prominence relative to their objective importance, except in the immediate vicinity of each disaster. The obvious comparison and contrast is with the intense over reporting of anything remotely connected to ‘Muslim terrorism’ , almost anywhere in the world.
The second is that when a particular disaster is reported it is done in isolation, so that the public should not see the overall pattern Again the contrast with the coverage of ‘Muslim extremism’ where the international pattern and ‘threat’ is always brought out, is striking. Whereas the adjective Muslim or Islamic is attached to terrorist, extremist or radical whenever popular the media almost never mentions ‘climate change’ in conjunction with these or other ‘natural’ disasters. When the great and the good gather together in
to spout hot air and do very little there is huge coverage. When the climate
change they are NOT stopping hits ordinary people it is ‘Don’t mention the
Of course, the media will make the defence that particular weather events cannot be attributed directly to climate change. This is true but – deliberately - misses the point: the point being that global warming does not cause a specific flood but systematically increases the frequency and intensity of flooding (and droughts and fires and storms etc.). In other words it creates precisely the kind of pattern of extreme weather events that we are witnessing and which media reporting obscures.
The third conclusion relates to the way we think about climate change. The general discourse around climate change (in the media, among politicians and also among many ordinary people, including people on the left who accepted the scientific argument about climate change) has been in the future tense. Climate change was discussed as something that might (or might not) ‘happen’ or get really serious in thirty,fifty or eighty years. The question was do ‘we’ have time to stop it? Or what will happen when/if sea levels rise? Will we all be underwater by 2100?. What these and many other recent events make clear is that we have to use the present tense. CLIMATE CHANGE IS NOW. Of course it can and will get worse but its happening right now.
This means that we on the left have to develop our arguments and demands and campaigns not only about the absolute necessity of drastically reducing carbon emissions by switching to renewable energy sources but also about the need for immediate measures to cope with the effects of climate change e.g. floods, storms, fires, droughts. Unless we do this working people and the poor here and the world over will be made to pay the price of global warming just as they are made to pay the price of economic crisis. And the price will be horrendous.