Tuesday, May 24

Climate Change: The Science of Floods | Opinion

A house destroyed by floods in Rech, Germany.
A house destroyed by floods in Rech, Germany.FRIEDEMANN VOGEL / EFE

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Predicting the unpredictable, like the floods that have killed 200 people in Germany and Belgium, seems like the fantasy of a doomsayer, the mania of a madman, or the strategy of a phony. What honest and sensible mind could have foreseen that on July 13 such a brutal deluge was going to fall in that area? And what could he have done to avoid disaster? We continue to look at floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions through the same prism as the ancients and prehistorics, like a curse from some devious god bent on making life difficult for us, yes, but against whom nothing can be done. This, in reality, is nothing more than an excuse to do nothing and a trick to exempt regulators from all responsibility. Although it seems a paradox, the unpredictable can be prevented.

The main lesson that this ongoing pandemic has taught us is that we could have prevented hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of deaths that would have been preventable if our prevention policy had been smart, following the path recommended by scientists for decades. The covid pandemic is as natural a catastrophe as a tsunami or the current floods in Central Europe can be, and despite this we all now know what we have to do to prevent the next one.

Effective and coordinated surveillance systems, an industry capable of manufacturing protective equipment, a well-oiled virology to respond with vaccines as soon as the pandemic agent is known, and health authorities that are paid attention to by the governments that finance them. I say the latter because the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has been disappointed in advising the governments of sensible measures to only find before them the desert of the Tartars. But it also applies to the WHO and any other scientific body. That’s the way to prevent an unpredictable next pandemic.

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In the case of flooding these days, not even the most serious scientists have been up to the task. Not because their science is bad. On the contrary, the meteorologists of the European warning system had predicted an episode of extreme rain in the area four days before the first drop fell, as reported Warren Cornwall para Science. Their reaction, however, apart from issuing the appropriate alert, was to congratulate themselves on their great predictability. Hannah Cloke, a hydrologist at the University of Reading and a member of the alert system group, disagrees at all that the dead are victims of the leviathan. “We shouldn’t be seeing this many people dying from floods in 2021,” he says. “This simply shouldn’t be happening.” Since Yes you can prevent the unpredictable, the scientist is right.

Industry researchers struggle to understand the contribution of climate change, hydrology, and the ever-elusive social components to this tragedy. According to the latest calculations, warming does not increase the number of extreme weather events, but it does increase their destructive force. And European contingency plans focus more on large rivers than their tributaries that have now overflowed. They are just a couple of hints for regulators.


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