By Brendan O'Neill
January 14th, 2011
Who, if anyone, is to blame for the terrible flooding in Brisbane? Commentators are pointing their collective finger at the usual suspects. For the extreme green magazine Grist, the floods expose mankind’s arrogance in believing that he can build settlements anywhere he likes, even on floodplains. Nature is “taking a perverse pleasure in pointing out just where the shiny, might city is weakest”, gloats Grist. Others are blaming Aussie property developers, for thoughtlessly throwing up flood-prone buildings, and yet others think Queensland politicians should have done more to improve flood defences.
But might there be another, so far overlooked, contributing factor to the floods? Might the politics of environmentalism itself – the contemporary obsession with global warming as the greatest threat to mankind – have exacerbated the impact of the flooding in Brisbane? It seems possible that Aussie politicians’ and officials’ deeply held conviction that the main problem we face today is increased heat, droughts and a lack of rainfall caused them to take their eye off the ball in Brisbane, and to be unprepared for something as relatively normal as very heavy rainfall.
It is worth looking at a document called ClimateSmart 2050, which was published in 2007 by the Queensland government. It outlines Queensland’s priorities for the next four decades (up to 2050) and promises to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent during that timeframe. The most striking thing about the document is its assumption that the main problem facing this part of Australia, along with most of the rest of the world, is essentially dryness brought about by global warming. It argues that “the world is experiencing accelerating climate change as a result of human activities”, which is giving rise to “worse droughts, hotter temperatures and rising sea levels”. We are witnessing “a tendency for less rainfall with more droughts”, the document confidently asserted.
Not surprisingly, given their belief that the Earth would become increasingly parched, Queensland officials emphasised the potential crisis of future “water availability” and promised to prioritise “water conservation”. This is one reason why the Wivenhoe dam at Brisbane was allowed to fill up over the past couple of years: because climate change-obsessed Queensland bureaucrats were convinced that rainfall would decline and dry seasons would become more intense, and therefore as much water as possible had to be stored up for future crises. In March last year, as the Wivenhoe dam went from being just 16.7 per cent full to 80 per cent full, still local politicians told their communities to use water sparingly or else “risk a return to a ban on washing cars and other severe restrictions”.
The Queensland government’s belief that water conservation should be a key priority in this speedily warming world of ours appears to have led to the situation where local dams were allowed to get dangerously full. So in recent weeks, the Wivenhoe dam was running at 150 per cent to 180 per cent capacity, which means that the authorities had to start releasing water from the dam at the same time that the rain-caused flash floods were hitting Brisbane’s river system – effectively contributing to the deluge. It is surely worth asking, at least, whether Queensland officialdom’s embrace of the ideology of climate change, its fervent belief in future manmade drought and thus the need to store as much water as possible, made it unprepared for the current flooding of the Brisbane area.
This is not to say that “greens are to blame for Brisbane”. There’s no point joining the current clamour to find one evil person or one evil that can be held responsible for what is a very complex natural disaster. However, in a world in which the political elites increasingly spend their time fantasising over a future hot apocalypse, where it is fashionable to make Biblical predictions about mankind receiving a sweaty punishment for his wayward behaviour, it is worths raising the possibility at least that our priorities have become seriously skewed. Perhaps it is time for our leaders to come back down to Earth, and to address problems in the here and now, rather than endlessly moralising about man’s behaviour and its future impact on Mother Earth.
Click to view image: 'oz1'
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