Category Archives: Flooding

COVID-19 bulletin 24: though death toll rises in Yemen, BAE-assisted airstrikes continue

Flooding struck Aden in April, leaving several areas submerged in sewage and water for weeks and this month over 600 people have died in Yemen’s capital.

In a detailed account, the World Health Organisation says there is no way of assessing how many other deaths there have been in this war ravaged country.

Andrew Smith (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) said that UK-made Typhoon Eurofighter jets (above) have played a key role in the devastating Saudi-led bombing of Yemen and despite the humanitarian crisis and the outbreak of Covid-19, the war is still raging. He ended:

“We are in unprecedented times and this should not be happening”.

British arms manufacturer BAE is also responsible for the maintenance and support of the kingdom’s 72 jets and has continued to supply military equipment, including spare parts, to Saudi Arabia throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

New Labour MP Sam Tarry (right) asked the Secretary of State for Defence two questions:

  • why have weekly flights continued from a BAE Systems factory in Warton to a military base in Saudi Arabia from where air strikes on Yemen are launched
  • and why those flights have been assessed as essential during the covid-19 lockdown.

Though a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf states announced a ceasefire in April, the Yemen Data Project reports that the bombing has continued, with three civilians injured by an air strike as recently as May 2nd.

But as its AGM had to be cancelled, BAE has been spared angry questions about its trade in weapons – an annual ordeal.

Industry editor Alan Tovey notes that there is one bonus to the lockdown: BAE’s annual meeting, scheduled for May 7, is normally a testing time for the board, with proceedings routinely disrupted by anti-arms activists who gatecrash and forcefully question BAE’s trade in weapons.

He adds that BAE’s “sleepless enemies” see opportunities in the dispersed working.

BAE’s Systems’ chief executive Charles Woodburn (left) wouldn’t give details to Tovey, but confirms that BAE has seen a spike in attempted cyber intrusions since the pandemic hit.

Sadly, Woodburn describes higher military spending as a way of stimulating the economy once the current crisis passes.  No going back? Or business as usual?

 

 

 

 

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Should government spend twice as much on the military as on the “unfolding climate catastrophe”?

A new report by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) calls for addressing the climate crisis to be treated as the ‘first duty of government.’

caat coverFighting the Wrong Battles: How Obsession with Military Power Diverts Resources from the Climate Crisis, is written by CAAT’s Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, the group’s research co-ordinator and former head of military expenditure at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. He says:

“The climate crisis is not only an environmental crisis, it is also one of human security. It is already causing catastrophic damage and loss of life worldwide.

Analysis in the report shows that the government spends more than twice as much on the military as it does on mitigating climate change. The report argues that “The balance of priorities for these two areas of spending should be clear. Climate change represents an existential threat to the UK and the world. Loss of the UK’s status as a global military power does not.”

While the programmes for Trident replacement and new large aircraft carriers go ahead, the same level of financial support is not provided to tackle the biggest threat to the security of people in the UK and worldwide – the unfolding climate catastrophe. As the report reflects:

“It is striking that the maximum spending estimate for achieving the UK’s climate change targets is around the same level as what the government considers to be the bare minimum requirement for military spending.”

“The climate crisis is not only an environmental crisis, it is also one of human security. It is already causing catastrophic damage and loss of life worldwide. The recent floods have shown how ill-prepared UK infrastructure and government responses are today. As climate change worsens then so will the impact of floods and extreme weather events.

                                  Pictured in a thoughtful article in Carbon Brief

“If we are to make the changes that are needed, that means moving towards a vision of climate justice and sustainable security. We must focus on the real threats to human well-being, recognise the interdependence of security for people around the world, and ensure that our economic systems remain within the bounds set by nature.”

fabian hamilton mp peace labourShadow peace minister Fabian Hamilton hosted a lobby in parliament today from 11.30am where CAAT presented the report.

Speakers were the report’s author, Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman and Anna Vickerstaff, UK Team Leader at 350.org, which works to end the use of fossil fuels and build community-led renewable energy.

A wider discussion followed.

ENDNOTE

As many readers have a particular interest in defence we add a distinction between spending on true defence and on the nuclear weapon and the equipment used in Allied coalition operations in the Middle East.

The BBC reported the views of a former Head of Joint Forces Command, Gen Sir Richard Barrons, some time ago. He established the important Joint Force Command, which examines areas such as cyber warfare, medical, logistics, information and surveillance.

Sir Richard said that key capabilities such as radars, fire control systems and missile stocks had been stripped out. Neither the UK homeland nor a deployed force could be protected from a concerted air attack . . . Manpower in all three services is dangerously squeezed and Navy ships and RAF planes depend on US support.

Major General Tim Cross, who served in the British army for 40 years, responded to criticism of Sir Richard’s statements as “wrong and unfair”; adding that he was “simply highlighting a reality”.

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Read more here:

https://www.caat.org.uk/

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/29388

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/military-spending-diverting-much-needed-resources-tackling-unfolding-climate

https://www.carbonbrief.org/guest-post-are-uk-floods-becoming-worse-due-to-climate-change

https://www.caat.org.uk/resources/publications/government/fighting-the-wrong-battles-feb2020.pdf

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37391804

 

 

 

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Climate change Achilles heels: Australian fires, Middle Eastern drought, British floods

Will politicians ever put their constituents’ interests first?

By 5pm on Sunday there were 271 flood warnings for England, landslides in Wales, hundreds evacuated from their homes, tens of thousands without electricity. many town centres heavily flooded and hundreds of train, plane and ferry services cancelled.

Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said, “The reality of the climate crisis is that more extreme weather will happen more often and with devastating consequences.

floods car submerged (2)MP Craig Whittaker’s constituency includes a string of communities along the River Calder that have been repeatedly devastated by floods. Among them are the villages and small towns of Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Luddendenfoot and Sowerby Bridge. But after the 2015 floods the Commons debated a motion calling for annual spending on defences to be increased from £695.3 million to £800m, Mr Whittaker was amongst those who voted against the motion, which was defeated.

Some whose homes and businesses were affected have had enough and are going to move away: “We don’t want to become a ghost town.”

In November 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was vigorously heckled by local people when belatedly visiting flooded Stainforth in South Yorkshire, after expressing little concern about the floods.

After intense lobbying £33m.was granted for work in Mytholmroyd which began in June 2018 and is due to be finished in July or August 2020

Workers constructing flood defences in Mytholmroyd in the Upper Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, building walls to contain the River Calder

Peter Lazenby points out that while this scheme struggled to get funding, the government was subsidising landowners who are increasing run-off in rainstorms by clearing Pennine moorland above the Calder Valley for grouse shooting, burning off moorland which removes mosses and other plants that absorb and store water.

In some places, water flows are controlled by bodies called Internal Drainage Boards, independent locally funded and operated statutory public bodies. Many members of these boards are landowners and seem interested only in speeding water off farmland: they dredge, straighten and embank rivers, rushing water towards cities lower in the catchment.  a recent National Audit Office report revealed significant issues with their governance, transparency and accountability.

MP Philip Davies branded it “completely unacceptable” that many of his constituents in Shipley, West Yorkshire, which was also flooded during Storm Ciara, had also been victims of the 2015 floods.

Towns in the Calder Valley, such as Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd (above) have been flooded repeatedly, partly, local people argue, because the upper catchment is unable to hold back most of the rain that falls on it.

A paper published in the Journal of Hydrology X reported experiments conducted in another part of the Pennines, the range in which Calderdale is located. It found that when peat bogs are restored, deep vegetation is allowed to recover and erosion gullies are blocked, water is held back for longer in the hills, and peak flows in the streams draining them are reduced. There has been a major shift in awareness, in and out of government, that impeding the flow of water off the land and slowing a river’s pace can reduce flooding downstream, saving lives, homes and infrastructure.

One paper suggests that reforesting between 20 and 40% of a catchment can reduce the height of floods by 19% and recommends:

In Japan, England, the Netherlands, and other low-lying countries, architects and civil engineers have developed technologies for flood control barriers, weirs and floodgates When the water rises, the computerized walls close and water fills tanks along the barrier. The weight of the water pushes the walls firmly down and keeps water from passing through. Hydraulic motors don’t need electricity to run, so they aren’t affected by power failures that can occur during storms.

Flood-affected urban areas often face a different set of problems, related to housebuilding in floodplains and damaged sewage systems. Whilst the housebuilding problem persists it is good to read about progress made in places like Stirchley.

In due course we hope to hear the residents in places like Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd echoing the cautious 2020 accolade of Peter Walker – Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum

“I think that the defence work that has been done so far is having some success”.

 

 

 

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Flooding: Environment Agency, food security, wildlife and the PM’s advice

Camilla Hodgson reports that ten English authorities with the highest number of homes at serious flood risk plan to build homes in what the government considers “high-risk” areas. Almost 35,000 are planned – and more in lower-risk flood zones, according to local planning documents analysed by the FT.

Council planning officers at both Fenland and Hull councils said the risk of flooding must be balanced against the importance of economic growth.

Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at catastrophe risk modelling company Risk Management Solutions warns of several hazards, including:

  • the failure to consider insurance during the planning process, so that some homes end up being uninsurable or very expensive to protect;
  • councils’ inability to afford to monitor the installation of planned mitigation measures – such as raising the height of the electrics in new housing
  • and that currently developers bear no further responsibility for properties after they are sold.

in November The Lincolnite reported that more than 5,000 homes have been proposed in high-risk zones of Lincolnshire, where roads and thousands of acres of farmland were flooded with some farms being totally marooned.

Andrew Ward, one of the affected farmers, described the ‘horrendous’ damage: “Potatoes, sugar beet and maize have been ruined and the loss of wildlife will be colossal here, all of their habitats will be ruined.”

He complains that the Environment Agency are using farmland as flood plains to prevent flooding in Lincoln: “The rivers need to be dredged but we haven’t ever seen it happen here”. The Environment Agency has insisted that it does carry out regular and ongoing maintenance and blamed problems on the heavy rainfall. See video link

On the campaign trail in flood-hit Derbyshire, the prime minister said: “We’ve got to stop building on flood plains. We’ve got to stop building on areas which are vulnerable to flooding.”

In due course this statement should be fact-checked.

 

 

 

 

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City fund managers, responding to Gail Bradbrook, call for reform of our economic system

Patrick Jenkins (Financial Times) attended a debate held by the FT City Network, a panel of more than 50 senior figures from across the City of London, during which ‘two of the world’s biggest fund management bosses’ pleaded for reform.

He reported that these pleas were made in response to an address by Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, in which she called for wholesale reform of the current economic system to avert global disaster.

Recent protests have focussed in part on the City of London and the role that banks, asset managers and insurers play in financing and sustaining some of the world’s most environmentally damaging industries, from oil extraction to vehicle manufacture.

In October Extinction Rebellion activists dressed in red later demonstrated outside the Royal Exchange in the City of London in October

Several participants praised the part that UK-based climate change activist group Extinction Rebellion has played — alongside others, including Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and film-maker David Attenborough.

Anne Richards, chief executive of Fidelity International, said the world must end “our obsession with ever-increasing GDP” and the “primacy of shareholders” to foster the kind of long-term thinking that would help protect the environment and “pivot [away] from the Milton Friedman concept of capitalism and the primacy of shareholders, who may have a very short-term involvement with an individual company, towards a wider stakeholder approach”.

Andreas Utermann, CEO of Allianz Global Investors, said that the world’s growth mania — “nominal GDP growth, supported by population growth, [and profit] growth” — was clearly unsustainable, and suggested that capitalism in its current form is “borrowing from the future while destroying the environment . . . A more holistic approach to ‘growth’ needs to evolve, looking to capture societal and environmental benefits and costs . . . More sophisticated measures than GDP per capita are required to determine whether capitalism is delivering to all stakeholders without borrowing from the future while destroying the environment. It was self-evident that this is not sustainable”.

A number of City Network contributors said that, while it was impossible to blacklist climate unfriendly firms instantly, it was vital that companies set tough environmental targets, measure whether they were met and reward managers on their performance, rather than on short-term profit. Other interventions showed that a wider range of contributors to the debate believe that business and government must urgently improve their response to the growing evidence of environmental catastrophe.

 

 

 

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Fracking companies use the law to strong-arm local authorities and landowners

As a report in the Blackpool Gazette showed a drone photograph of Cuadrilla’s well pad near Blackpool under inches of water this week, which could lead to fields and watercourses being contaminated with fracking chemicals and drilling muds, there is news of planned incursions elsewhere.

Ineos, Britain’s biggest fracking company, wants to survey sites in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.

Clumber Park estate (below) in Nottinghamshire, is now owned by the National Trust which opposes fracking. As the trust has refused to allow Ineos to carry out tests for shale gas on this land, the company is to use legal powers under the Mines Act 1966. It has now applied to the government’s Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) for access to conduct seismic surveys on the 3,800-acre estate in order to gauge the best sites for drilling.

Ineos is also seeking to bypass local councils by using powers created in 2015 to fast-track plans to drill for shale gas in the Midlands without their planning approval. These enable companies to request intervention from ministers to get permission for delayed infrastructure projects deemed to be of national importance. Councils that ’unreasonably delay planning decisions’ can be overruled by Sajid Javid, the local government secretary, via the planning inspectorate.

Ineos plans to apply formally to Mr Javid within days for intervention on two delayed projects in Derbyshire and near Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

As David Powell (NEF) asks “How long can the government push clean and dirty energy at the same time?” He ends with a comment:

“If the Government bows to INEOS’s bolshie demands, it wouldn’t just be an affront to the very concept of democracy. It would also be proof – in a decarbonising, climate-changing world, even as it talks big on a ‘clean’ industrial strategy – that it retains a very misguided sense of which horse to back”.

 

 

 

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Government alarmingly postpones action on climate change

Paul Simons adds to many ‘wakeup calls’ – writing about high temperatures, drought and wildfires.

On Thursday Spain broke the record for its highest temperature with 47.3C (117.1F) at Montoro, near Cordoba in the south of the country.

May and June were also phenomenally hot across Portugal, Italy, the Balkans, Greece and Turkey.

Heat and drought have helped to fuel wildfires in Spain and Italy, and wildfires near the seaside resort of Calampiso in Sicily forced the evacuation by boat of about 700 tourists on Wednesday night. In Greece the heatwave led the culture ministry to close archaeological sites around the country, including the Acropolis in Athens.

Together with a long-running drought, the heat has ravaged much of southern Spain, leading to a devastated wheat and barley harvest. If the arid conditions continue, there are also fears for the olive, walnut, almond and grape harvests and the wellbeing of livestock. Rainfall has been desperately low this year, but the country has been suffering from a lack of rain for five years.

Drought threatens to reduce cereal production in Italy and parts of Spain to its lowest level in at least 20 years, and hit other regional crops. Castile and Leon, the largest cereal growing region in Spain, has been particularly badly affected, with crop losses estimated at around 60 to 70%. While the EU is collectively a major wheat exporter, Spain and Italy both rely on imports from countries including France, Britain and Ukraine.

Deadly heatwaves for much of South Asia – yet many of those living there will have contributed little to climate change

The Guardian adds to the news from Europe: India recorded its hottest ever day in 2016 when the temperature in the city of Phalodi, Rajasthan, hit 51C. Another  study led by Prof Elfatih Eltahir, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, linked the impact of climate change to the suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers.

The analysis, published in the journal PNAS, assesses the impact of climate change on the deadly combination of heat and humidity, measured as the “wet bulb temperature” (WBT). Once this reaches 35C, the human body cannot cool itself by sweating and even fit people sitting in the shade will die within six hours.

Prof Chris Huntingford, at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said: “If given just one word to describe climate change, then ‘unfairness’ would be a good candidate. Raised levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are expected to cause deadly heatwaves for much of South Asia. Yet many of those living there will have contributed little to climate change.”

Guardian journalists comment sarcastically, “But fear not: by 2040, no new diesel or petrol vehicles will be sold in the UK

This, apparently, is the appropriate timetable for responding to what a parliamentary committee calls a “public health emergency”. A child born today will be 23 by the time this policy matures – by then the damage to the development of her lungs and brain will have been done”.

Cold comfort

According to Professor Eltahir’s study, if emissions are reduced roughly in line with the global Paris climate change agreement there would be no 35C WBT heatwaves and the population affected by the 31C WBT events would fall from 75% to 55%. About 15% are exposed today.

A National Geographic article says most people agree that to curb global warming a variety of measures need to be taken. On a personal level, driving and flying less, recycling, and conservation reduces a person’s “carbon footprint”—the amount of carbon dioxide a person is responsible for putting into the atmosphere.

At present, lorries shifting identical goods in opposite directions pass each other on 2,000-mile journeys. Competing parcel companies ply the same routes, in largely empty vans – a theme explored by MP Caroline Lucas and Colin Hines in 2003 – the Great Trade Swap.

It describes airports as deadly too – yet government and opposition alike are ‘apparently hell-bent’ on expanding Heathrow, exploring airport expansion projects elsewhere and seeking post-Brexit trade deals with distant countries.

To reduce the risk of ever more extreme weather, we must reduce the amount of fossil fuel we are burning – and the measures taken will have other desirable consequences as the following cartoon shows:

Parliament must listen to its Committee on Climate Change – chairman John Gummer. As the East Anglian Times reported in June, its annual progress report calls for “urgent” plans to meet legal targets for carbon cuts by 2032 as greenhouse gases from transport and buildings continue to rise.

The committee advocates action to bridge the gap between existing policies and what is needed to achieve required emissions reductions by the mid-2020s – boosting electric vehicles and cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the heating of homes to help to meet UK climate targets.

 

 

 

 

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Seeking food supplies from Turkey and Morocco?  Time for change!

On BBC Radio 4 today it was reported that some supermarkets are limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.

veg-2shortage

A newspaper elaborates: “Morrisons and Tesco have limited the amount of lettuce and broccoli after flooding and snow hit farms in Spain. Shortages of other household favourites – including cauliflower, cucumbers, courgettes, oranges, peppers and tomatoes – are also expected. Prices of some veg has rocketed 40% due to the freak weather. Sainsburys admitted weather has also affected its stocks”.

HortiDaily reports on frost in Europe in detail (one of many pictures below) and the search for supplies from Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia.

A former Greenpeace Economist foresees these and more persistent problems in his latest book, Progressive Protectionism.

Read on: https://foodvitalpublicservice.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/seeking-food-supplies-from-turkey-time-for-change/

 

 

 

“If we are to live in Remainia, we should insist on sweeping change”

A Moseley reader sent a link to the Guardian article by George Monbiot today and as usual the original article, posted on his website, has a subtle difference of tone.

Monbiot points out that the Leave campaigners have scarcely mentioned the European Union’s great bonfire of banknotes – not expenditure on quangos or relocating and running the institution but on farm subsidies at €55 billion a year.

Why? The leading Brexiters . . . denounce the transfer of public money from the rich to the poor but are intensely relaxed about the transfer of public money from the poor to the rich

Continuing “The leaders of the Remain campaign are no better”, Mr Monbiot points out that the payments would more accurately be described as land subsidies, as they are paid by the hectare. The poorest farmers who own or lease less than five hectares are excluded: “The more land you own or lease, the more public money you are given, so the richest people in Europe clean up. Oh, not just in Europe. Russian oligarchs, Saudi princes and Wall Street bankers have bought up tracts of European farmland, thus qualifying for the vast sums we shovel into their pockets”

These payments are not related to food production and surprisingly, though they are supposed to act as an incentive for environmental conservation, Monbiot comments that, in Westminster’s version of the European rules, ponds, wide hedges, reed beds, regenerating woodland, thriving salt marsh and trees sufficient to form a canopy are listed as “ineligible features . . . which need to be destroyed if farmers are to claim subsidies for the land on which they grow”. He describes the Common Agricultural Policy as “a €55bn incentive to destroy wildlife habitats and cause floods downstream”, noting that across Romania, farmers are beginning to realise that they can make money simply by mass felling of trees and destruction of wildlife, not for any productive purpose, but just to meet the European rules.

Monbiot ends, “I will vote In on Thursday, as I don’t want to surrender this country to the unmolested control of people prepared to rip up every variety of public spending and public protection except those that serve their own class . . .

 

 

 

How many nuclear installations will be vulnerable to floods and rising seas?

Lesley Docksey sends news that Marianne Birkby has written to Cumbria County Council asking them not to approve the plan to extend the life and capacity of the Drigg nuclear waste site (below) on the West Coast of Cumbria.

nuclear 2 drigg repository

Three years ago DEFRA reported on the nuclear sites which are at risk of flooding and coastal erosion – see Rob Edwards in the Guardian.

Are politicians acting on this information?

Last year, the Guardian reported that an internal Environment Agency document suggests that it was a mistake to position the Drigg radioactive waste site close to the Cumbrian coast because of the risk of flooding. Ian Parker, the Environment Agency’s group manager in Cumbria said, after detailed technical examinations: ‘It’s highly probable the coast will erode and the waste (at Drigg) will be disrupted.’

Are contents confined to low level waste?

The University of Reading has pointed out in its radiological risk assessment that compacted waste is currently placed in steel ISO-freight containers, with void space filled with highly fluid cement based grout. Radionuclides with highest activities in the inventory – include 3H, 241Pu, 137Cs, 234U and 90Sr, 238U and 232Th.

Have defective radioactive waste containers been replaced?

drigg llw 3

In 2013 the Low Level Repository Ltd’s management wrote: “in containers at the tops of stacks, the external capping grout has undergone extensive physical degradation and settlement; the lids are not full of grout, and the grout is generally heavily cracked. The state of the capping grout in underlying layers is better; most containers only show sparse cracking and typical settlement in the lid is approximately 15 mm. Standing water, sometimes contaminated with low levels of radioactivity, is present in approximately half of the containers at the tops of stacks. In containers at the tops of stacks, organic matter (principally leaf mould) has accumulated beneath many open grout ports, with vegetation growing from some grout ports. Corrosion, sometimes fully penetrating, is present in some container lids at the tops of stacks…”

nuclear marianne kirkbyOn this site, earlier this month, there was a report by Marianne Birkby who lives in the area and is spokesperson for Radiation Free Lakeland, a voluntary organisation of local activists giving their own time and expertise freely. She highlighted the fact that the BBC helicopter relaying images of the devastation avoided showing areas in which nuclear installations are located: Sellafield, Drigg, Lillyhall and the proposed new nuclear plant on the river Ehen floodplain, Moorside.

There is a petition: LOCK THE GATE ON DRIGG and Marianne says that a letter to Cumbria County Council would also be fantastic.

“We need to tell our elected representatives at local and national level that there is no “away” for radioactive wastes. In a finite world there is no infinite *dilution* of radioactive wastes”.

She invites readers to write to the Leader of Cumbria County Council, Stuart Young: Stewart.Young@cumbria.gov.uk – and if you have time to the Cabinet members via Democratic Services: democratic.services@cumbriacc.gov.uk