The London flooding makes it clear – we must now learn how to deal with extreme weather

·3-min read

Heavy rain has flooded roads and London Underground stations across the capital – with Barts Health NHS trust having to declare a major incident after issues at Whipps Cross hospital and Newham Hospital in the east of the city.

It is the second time this month that flash floods have hit parts of London, with other areas of the south east of England affected too. The London Fire Brigade said on Sunday night that it had yet to receive any reports of threats to life in the wake of the rain, but that it had been dealing with more than 300 calls.

In a response to the flooding, Luke Pollard, Labour's shadow environment secretary made clear that we can expect these events to become less and less rare. “There will be more floods, more frequently – the severe weather that we are seeing, not only in Britain but across Europe and around the world is a consequence of the climate crisis we are in.”

Met Office and Environment Agency rain gauges showed there was 48.5mm (1.9in) of rain in one hour at Bethersden in Kent on Sunday afternoon and 20mm to 30mm in one hour in parts of London and nearby counties.

Climate change doesn’t cause extreme weather events, but there is plenty of evidence building to suggest that it is making extreme weather events more likely and more intense. For example, a rapid analysis of the recent heatwave which broke temperature records across Canada and the western US, was made at least 150 times more likely by the climate crisis. “We are entering uncharted territory,” said one author of that report.

If that is the case, then the pictures of flooded stations and roads show the work that needs to be done to give people – not just in London but around the UK – the protection they need to try and help mitigate such events as and when they arise

Pollard pointed this out in his video message, saying that such “flooding events need to be a wake-up call to governments” to “move faster” in cutting carbon emissions and “importantly to improve resilience” for our homes and businesses against extreme weather.

“We also need to make sure that the government is more responsive to help communities that are affected by that severe weather,” he continued, stating that it is not just the damage to property which can be an issues, but also the effect it can have on the mental health of those facing the need to recover from such events. Speeding up the processes around recovery – insurance etc – could help that.

This comes as London hosts a meeting between climate and environment ministers and representatives from more than 50 countries together to lay the groundwork for the Cop26 climate summit – which will be held in the UK later in the year.

The meeting, led by Cop26 president-designate Alok Sharma is aimed at building a vision for the summit and building “unity of purpose”. It can only be hoped that the pictures of the flooding on London's streets provides some clarity about the task ahead – for both the British government and those around the world.

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