Thursday, July 26, 2007

Keeping our heads above water

A couple of observations about the UK floods:

- First, in my view, the UK response so far has been superb. The emergency services have been combing through flooded areas looking for kids and old people who may have been left behind, airlifting people when necessary and generally making sure that serious losses (as in deaths and serious injuries) are prevented. There's been a real community spirit and so far no reports of looting or anything of that kind that I can think of. The news media have been shrill, but they have been holding the government to very high standards. Last night the BBC news led with a piece on how drinking water dispensers in Gloucester haven't been filled often enough. The piece highlighted this failing and the reporter put the criticism directly to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who really had to say it would be fixed. Here's the thing: if he doesn't get it right, tonight's news will be scathing. I couldn't help contrasting what's happened with Katrina: the looting, the sign outside someone's house (“I have a big gun and an ugly wife”), FEMA's complete mismanagement of the crisis and Bush's now-infamous response (“Brownie – you're doing a heckuva job”).

- Second, I doubt you can put these floods down to global warming, but what they do highlight is the kind of economic devastation climatic changes will wreak in the years ahead. The so-called “economic” case against action (“it'll cost too much”) is totally bogus. As the Stern report has argued at length, even very conservative estimates regarding the frequency of events like this make a compelling economic case for action.

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