For years, the world has justified inaction on climate change by saying it would be too expensive to address. But that argument is getting weaker with every stronger storm. Consider Prime Minister David Cameron who seemed to be having his “Katrina moment” in his initial slow reaction to Britain’s months of rain and flooding. This week, however, the prime minister of austerity said money would be “no object” in helping flood victims. Meanwhile, yesterday President Obama pledged aid to drought-stricken farmers in California. The western economies, at least, have the option of spending billions to help mitigate the consequences of climate change; not so for nations in Africa and parts of Asia that already have “climate refugees” displaced by prolonged drought or rising sea levels.
As the prediction that climate change will cause more extreme weather patterns becomes more manifest, the human impact and bills keep rising. An acquaintance in the Oxfordshire area of London is but one example. He and his wife have had multiple pumps going 24 hours a day pumping the water out of their basement. Every so often, an alarm goes off, and they have to go to the basement and turn on a seventh or eighth pump to stem the rising tide. So far, he is saving his house from total ruin but at great inconvenience and expense. When the waters recede, he may be eligible for some funds to clean up his basement and yard from months of flooding. Undoubtedly, Cameron will make good on his pledge to rebuild the roads and transit system, albeit not without the frustration, delays and incompetence that seem to plague so many government relief efforts these days. And in the end, what will we have? A home in a country in a world just as vulnerable as ever to the next impending climate catastrophe.