Floods and storms swept over wide areas of southern England, Wales and the Midlands last week.
The first death may already have occurred in Chertsey, Surrey, where the River Thames burst its banks.
Seven year old Zane Gbangbola died in hospital last week, possibly from carbon monoxide fumes from equipment pumping flood water out of his home. Police had yet to confirm this as Socialist Worker went to press.
A man has also been killed kayaking on the River Usk in Wales.
Rail links were completely cut off to the bulk of the West Country, a 150-mile-long stretch of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and much of Somerset over the weekend.
The line to Taunton was underwater. A landslip closed the Yeovil line while a section of the coastal line was completely destroyed by the waves at Dawlish near Exeter. Students in Aberystwyth went into their exam period evacuated from their coastal halls of residence.
People in some Kent villages have been out of their homes for more than seven weeks.
They were told this week that their flood barrier would not be enough to protect everyone until 2035.
Unions angry at posh MP
Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has been at the forefront of the media’s flood coverage.
The Tory is a direct descendant of queen Victoria. He owns his own castle and has claimed over £100,000 in expenses.
Trade unionists in Bridgwater are furious at his attempt to skew the debate, which included a protest outside the Environment Agency office in Bridgwater.
A spokesperson for Bridgwater TUC said, “How dare he focus the blame on Environment Agency workers, who have struggled to carry out their duties in the face of government cuts?
“Liddell-Grainger would be better off protesting against his own government which has helped to cause this devastation.”
What causes the extreme weather?
Recent extreme weather is a taste of what climate change means for Britain.
There have always been some storms and heavy rains. But so many storms in such quick succession is new (see right).
The Met Office’s head scientist Dame Julia Slingo said, “All the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change”.
She called it the “most exceptional period of rainfall in 248 years” and said “There is no evidence to counter the basic premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly rain events.”
Global warming increases the amount of energy in the atmosphere, driving more turbulent weather.
The poles are warming faster than areas nearer the equator. This shrinks the difference in temperature between these areas, disrupting warm air and water currents.
This can cause major disruption to the North Atlantic jet stream that shapes much of Britain’s weather. The jet stream was diverted past Britain to the south this winter, bringing more cold and wet weather.
The same processes can also cause droughts and heatwaves when they divert wet weather away.
This crisis was not inevitable. Dramatic action is needed to change the system to reflect the interests of people—not profit.