The refusal to accept global warming is driven by corporate interests and the fear of what it will cost to try to stop it
‘In the words of Nicholas Stern’s 2006 report, climate change is “the greatest market failure the world has ever seen”.’ Photograph: Corbis
It’s an unmistakable taste of things to come. The floods that have deluged Britain may be small beer on a global scale. Compared with the cyclone that killed thousands in the Philippines last autumn, the deadly inundations in Brazil or the destruction of agricultural land and hunger in Africa, the south of England has got off lightly.
But the message has started to get through. This is exactly the kind of disaster predicted to become ever more frequent and extreme as greenhouse gas-driven climate change heats up the planet at a potentially catastrophic rate. And it’s exposed the David Cameron who wanted to “get rid of all the green crap” and who slashed flood defence spending by £100m a year as weak and reckless to his own supporters.
Of course there have been plenty of floods in the past, and it’s impossible to identify any particular weather event as directly caused by global warming. But as the Met Office’s chief scientist Julia Slingo put it, “all the evidence suggests that climate change has a role to play in it”. With 4% more moisture over the oceans than in the 1970s and sea levels rising, how could it be otherwise?
If it weren’t for the misery for the people at the sharp end, you might even imagine there was some divine justice in the fact that the areas hit hardest, from the Somerset Levels to the Thames valley are all Tory heartlands. It’s the same with the shale gas fracking plans the government is so keen on: the fossil fuel drilling and mining so long kept away from the