The serious floods that are ravaging Germany and Belgium these days are leaving dead and missing people, as well as completely devastated villages. As every time an extreme meteorological phenomenon of this caliber occurs, it is worth wondering if it is another of the consequences of climate change.
Although it is very daring to consider that every extreme meteorological phenomenon – a hurricane, a flood, a heat wave … – that takes place on Earth is attributable to climate change, we do know that these are going to be more intense and we should, therefore , be better prepared for them.
“The floods in Europe are a sobering demonstration of how even the most developed countries are not prepared for the impacts of climate change, ” the associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences at the University of Reading explained to the Science Media Center. “Heavy summer rain events are expected to occur more frequently under climate change, and national and local governments need to become aware of the danger and ensure that appropriate measures are taken to avoid the unacceptable number of deaths that have occurred. reported from this event. The floods in London earlier this week warn that we are not immune to these kinds of flood impacts in the UK and we must learn our own lessons from this disaster. “
University of Reading Professor of Hydrology Hannah Cloke agrees with this diagnosis: “These kinds of sudden torrential rains are exactly what we expect to happen on a rapidly warming planet. The fact that other parts of the Northern Hemisphere are experiencing unprecedented heat waves and fires should serve as a reminder that our climate could become much more dangerous. “
Lack of foresight
Experts agree that climate change adaptation plans, which include being better prepared for events of this type, are essential in this context of global change. “The problem with floods is the lack of acceptance of uncertainty. In general, protocols are not prepared for these cases, as well as for heat waves or fires. It is assumed that things will work in the average regime, and alternatives are not prepared for extreme cases ”, explains Antonio Ruiz de Elvira Serra, professor of Applied Physics at the University of Alcalá, in an article published by The Conversation. “In the entire planet, only hurricanes have protocols prepared in the face of the uncertainty of their occurrences, trajectories and intensities. The rest of the extreme atmospheric or oceanic phenomena always seem to be surprising. When it happened with the great snowfall in January in Spain, there was nothing prepared to deal with it, so that citizens had to spend more than a week isolated in their homes. This time, in Germany, a very organized country, there were no protocols to control the flooding. And yet it is well known that these extreme events are increasing in frequency and intensity, as a consequence of climate change . “
Not only climate change, there is another cause of human origin
In addition, another issue that often goes unnoticed when large floods such as those in Germany occur or the famous DANAs occur in the Mediterranean has to do with urban planning. “Urban expansion has paved green spaces and channeled rivers. We have built houses on floodplains now flooding while funneling excess water downstream to other locations. Climate change is changing the climate, but the disaster has also been promoted by other long-term human actions ”, concludes Professor of Disasters and Health at University College London Ilan Kelman in statements to Science Media Center.