Climate Change, Government Policy, or a Bad Combination of Weather and Topography?

Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands suffered very bad floods last week due to a series of intense storms that dumped a lot of water in a small area. The region had been damp to begin with, so the water-logged soils couldn’t hold any more. Two dams broke, a third overflowed but did not fail, and people died. Homes collapsed, roads and railroads disappeared into twisted masses of paving and tracks. Now people are trying to asses the damage and find the missing. It’s a horrible situation for the people of the Eifel region, Cologne, and areas downstream. The people flooded in North America can sympathize. Lots of water, very fast, on ground that can’t absorb more water . . . Flash flooding follows. It’s terrible for the people and animals caught in the water and mud.

The German and EU governments, and others, are blaming climate change for the intense storms that led to the flooding and deaths. If only we used non-CO2 producing sources of energy, this would never have happened, say the politicians and activists. Except . . .

The article is “Don’t blame climate change for Germany’s Flooding.”

I remember driving along the Rhine in 2012 and being flabbergasted by the height of the river. High rainfall had filled it to brim full. The Rhone and other tributaries also ran high. In 2002, the Elbe River in eastern Germany and the Czech Republic flooded, inundating Prague, Leipzig, Dresden, and other cities. In 1965, Hamburg went under water, and it still does. The parking garage near the maritime museum in the old part of the city has big signs on the doors saying not to open them if the water is X deep. The ground floors of buildings in that area are semi-sacrificial. In that case, it was a North Sea storm that backed water up the river and into the city. You know, like the horrible floods that killed tens of thousands of people at a go in the 1300s, 1500s, and 1700s, and probably earlier? Back before the internal combustion engine, during the Little Ice Age and before? Those floods. Inland also flooded as well in the past.

The above link goes to a paper looking at floods on the Lech and Isar Rivers, tributaries of the Danube that flow through Augsburg and Munich respectively. Floods happen. Lots of floods. When conditions are right, the rivers rise. Between 1300-1900, each river flooded over 85 times. The high waters ranged from “it flooded, that’s what it does” to huge inundations that wiped out large swaths of crop land and homes. (The part you want starts on page 790, or page 8 of the PDF).

Jo Nova has a post as well, about flood histories in the lower Rhineland, and elsewhere in the German-speaking world.

If you dig carefully enough, there are reports of floods during the warm period of the High Middle Ages (800s-1200s), and probably archaeological evidence of flooding during the Roman Warm Period. My point being that “rivers flood. That’s what they do,” as a farmer in Flat State observed as we discussed the local stream’s recent overflow. This does not make it any easier on people who find themselves caught in the waters. A poor lady on the news last night said that the municipality sent out a flood warning on Facebook™, but if people had no computers or were not on FB at the time, they didn’t know about the waters about to engulf the village. The national government did what it could, but local authorities dropped the ball. Or power had already gone out, and that wiped out cell service and other things. That’s not climate change, that’s a failure to have back-up plans.

It’s terrible that people were hurt or killed, and that more people lost homes, businesses, crops, and animals. Floods leave stinky, filth-ridden, disease-promoting muck and mire behind. The sun emerges, the mud steams, and miasmas fill the air as people start cleaning up. As has always happened since humans moved into floodplains and coastal plains.

If I could get a point across to politicians and activists around the world, it would be this: don’t blame anthropogenic climate change. Blame physics, hydrology, and gravity. Read about the Little Ice Age and the Great Drownings of the North Sea. Read Dagomar DeGroot’s Frigid Golden Age about the Dutch and the Little Ice Age. Solar panels and wind turbines can’t stop flooding, or intense storms. Coal and natural-gas powered generators don’t cause storms, neither do internal combustion engines.

Weather happens, no matter how badly people wish it didn’t. Pester your local politicians about bad land-use policies, donate to your local volunteer fire-and-rescue, and to groups that help with clean-up and rebuilding. Think about what you can do to help mitigate runoff and reduce hardscapes that contribute to urban flash-flooding. Those are things that can affect flood damage and loss of life. Sometimes. And sometimes, hell and high-water come together because of forces far beyond human control.

9 thoughts on “Climate Change, Government Policy, or a Bad Combination of Weather and Topography?

  1. Green policy arbitrarily and capriciously destroys wealth, and wastes usable energy. That wealth could have gone to disaster preparation, or been available for disaster relief.

    Climate change is the cry of people who want to implement flood control/abatement measures by sacrificing babies to Moloch instead of by actually implementing flood control/abatement measures.

    Germans have Gottingen. I’m not sure if that place is still any good in fluid mechanics, but if it is, the German government could bloody well know better than to do what they have done.

    [BLOGGER NOTE: While I agree with you on this, I don’t want my German readers getting flagged by their government, so I removed the statement.]

    • I can see the need for the excision, now that I recall or understand what standards you are trying to enforce here. However, for any German readers, I probably ought to specifically say what I object to.

      I think the German government ought to have been able to work out that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is false, or at least that the alternative hypothesis of ‘we cannot tell if there is any effect’ has not really been disproved. So, it should understand that Green energy investments do not serve any real purpose.

      So, if the German government chooses to pursue Green energy ‘investments’, it is doing an immoral act that it should know is immoral.

      The information control measures it supports that with are knowing falsehood in support of immoral acts.

      Furthermore, if it had not so wasted the tax money extracted from the German populations, actual benefits from that money would now exist for easing the impact of the flooding. This is ignoring the additional indirect economic harm done by unnecessary regulations.

  2. “Far beyond human control”.
    Aye, there’s the rub.

    The people who are true believers in the AGW bullpucky have a very human-centric view of reality. If something happens, somehow, someway, human agency caused it.
    (Of course, many of the same people happily take a wrecking ball to economics, and take no accountability when the inevitable occurs. So maybe it’s just about power and hubris.)

  3. Blame game, ‘we’ didn’t do anything wrong it was (insert something here)! And those who don’t read history ARE doomed to repeat it (especially with floods/flooding). Like the idjits over in Shreveport that built a high end subdivision INSIDE the levee, so they would have ‘good’ views of the Red River… sigh

  4. Ignorance of history … what else can be said? Well, ignorance of math and science (chaotic systems), ignorance of risk, refusal to look at immediate risks? Willful blindness, … …

    Education means giving both knowledge and the skills and attitudes to make it useful.

  5. I agree with “all of the above” Willful ignorance of math-based products, and when/how to use them right, makes it worse. A model is only as good as the very low probability answer you want to back out of it, in too many case.

    • And there’s always a variable that either didn’t seem that important, or that you didn’t know needed to be in the model. GIGO is still Rule #1 and #2.

  6. Anyway, part of my current saltiness is that I’ve had a new insight.

    Carbon has a light atomic weight.

    Therefore, the atmosphere is one of the places we would expect to see it.

    Somewhat, we might expect heavier weight molecules with lots of carbon to sink. Like, perhaps, the Phytoplankton I heard about from Luke the other day.

    So, sea floor sediment could have an unknown, non-constant, biologically driven amount of carbon containing material, potentially a huge amount. Tectonics drive subduction, turning the mineral sediment into magma, and perhaps cracking the carbon content into lighter molecules.

    At which point, lighter carbon molecules may float/diffuse to the upper part of the magma, and work their way up into the atmosphere.

    All of this is not completely measured, but the lower bound that can be set by volcanic CO2 is apparently large.

    Given the scale of this, perhaps the only reason to conclude humans as a major driver can be iterated to specifically blame Australians, Germans, or Spanish-speakers. As in, for the sake of discussion, capriciously blaming specifically someone that one would expect the audience to object to bearing the whole of the blame. As in, if someone refuses to follow the argument, asking them about the hypothetical case of a model showing that their mom, specifically and entirely, was the cause of world climate change.

    Sea effects might be larger than land effects, because of greater area. And, due to the speed of tectonics, transient land effects may have time to reverse before sea effects could change.

    Anyway, a new insight to me, but this should not be a new insight generally. In fact, I really should have come across it before now. If not for this bullshit ‘science is settled’ information control, I probably would have. Okay, people will say that I need to be following the ‘Watts up with that ‘ blog, but I barely have the time, energy, and attention for the stuff I’m trying to do in RL.

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