Climate Change: An Excuse For Political Incompetence

Posted on Tue 07/27/2021 by


By Dr. John Happs ~

People have always been drawn to the coast and rivers because of their scenic locations. In earlier times there were clear advantages from riverside and coastal living since they provided easier trade and communication with other parts of the country and overseas. Around the world, building on the fertile soils of riverside floodplains has been widespread and still continues even though we know that floodplains are plains that will always flood.

Queensland Floods 1974

Climate change received little or no mention by the media or politicians during the inundation of Queensland floodplains in 1974:

After this event, houses were rebuilt only to suffer later flooding. There were floodplain inundations in Queensland during 2011, 2012, 2013, 2018, 2019 and 2020. The more recent floods were met, not with expressions of regret for allowing building to continue in these areas, but with the anticipated cries of “global warming” and “climate change” from the media, green zealots and politicians.

Maitland Flood Scene by Elijah Hart

Flooding in Australia has been noted since records began. The Maitland (New South Wales) flood of 1857 was well documented by Elijah Hart (1821-1893) with his series of photographs now held in the State Library of Victoria:

More recently, Maitland experienced flooding in 2015:

Without any evidence, when flooding occurs today, climate alarmists point their collective fingers at the trivial emissions of anthropogenic carbon dioxide.

The self-appointed Australian Climate Council’s Dr. Martin Rice, well known for his unsubstantiated climate alarmism, predictably lamented:

“Greenhouse gas pollution is warming the climate system, increasing the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere. This leads to heavier rainfall.”

Heavier rainfall?

The chief counsellor of the Climate Council and former Australian of the Year Dr. Tim Flannery said the exact opposite in 2005:

“One morning in the not-too-distant future in one of the major cities, taps will be turned on, and instead of water, there will only be a whistling in the pipes. Not a drop. Totally dry.”

Bob Brown

In response to the 2011 Queensland floods, Green Party leader Bob Brown claimed, again with no evidence, that the coal mining industry was responsible and should pay for the Queensland flood damage, saying:

“It’s the single biggest cause – burning coal – for climate change and it must take its major share of responsibility for the weather events we are seeing unfolding now.”

One would think that Rice, Flannery and Brown would locate a few facts about flooding in Australia before making such ridiculous statements.

Uninformed climate alarmists, and others with vested interests, are not restricted to Australia. The recent inundation of floodplains across Europe has led to the much anticipated hand-wringing over climate change.

Floodplain inundation, Germany

Prior to the current disaster, the River Danube flooded in 2002, leading to an economic loss exceeding 15 billion Euros.

Climate alarmists shout “global warming” or “climate change” whilst conveniently overlooking the North Sea Flood of 1962, an event that destroyed about 60,000 homes with 315 deaths in Hamburg:

Climate alarmists pretend that any inundation by European waterways is a recent carbon dioxide-driven calamity despite the many high flood marks on a number of historic buildings, such as (amongst many others) the record 1501 river Danube flood level recorded on this building in Melk, Austria:

Photograph: Dr. John Happs

Reference to past Danube flooding can be located at:

The German spa town of Bad Schandau is sited in a valley on the banks of the river Elbe. Not surprisingly, the town has been flooded many times, as the town’s collection of flood markers show: (image at right)




In 2013, widespread flooding occurred across much of central Europe, particularly in Germany where:

“In hydrological terms this was the most severe flooding event in at least 60 years.”

The current flooding in Europe has impacted Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands with thousands left homeless, along with the tragic loss of life in Germany and Belgium. Not surprisingly, a number of political leaders have blamed this flood event on climate change along with media climate alarmists such as the scientifically bereft Philip Oltermann writing in The Guardian:

“The kind of extreme weather events the world is seeing with increasing frequency come with unpredictable consequences.”

Except that the same kind of extreme weather events the world is seeing now were seen long ago. Weather records held in England show flood events going back to the 13th century. For instance, the 1236 great flood saw the river Thames flooding the Palace of Westminster.

In 1663 the diarist Samuel Pepys recorded:

“There was last night the greatest tide that was ever was remembered in England to have been in this River, all Whitehall having been drowned.”

Oltermann and other scientifically illiterate reporters need to know that even the political/ideological Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) can find no evidence that extreme weather is increasing globally. As Ralph Alexander points out, the IPCC makes clear:

“Many extreme weather and climate events continue to be the result of natural climate variability.”

Malu Dreyer

But many politicians, such as Rhineland Governor Malu Dreyer don’t worry about evidence, saying:

“The disaster indicated the need to accelerate efforts to curb global warming. She (Angela Merkel) hampers efforts to achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions in Germany, where Rachette and Merkelʼ’s Central Right Union block is Europeʼ’s largest economy and a major source of global warming gases.”


“The potential for climate change is no longer abstract. We are experiencing it up close and painfully.”

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is another politician who doesn’t worry about evidence. He said he was “surprised” by the devastation caused by the floods and called for greater effort to combat global warming, saying: “We can limit the extreme weather we are currently experiencing only if we are determined to fight climate change.”

Horst Seehofer

Germany’s Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer also doesn’t worry about evidence, saying:

“This is a consequence of climate change.”

The Governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet also displayed his ignorance, commenting:

“It is a reality that extreme weather events will influence our everyday life more strongly in the future and we have to continue down Germany’s path towards climate neutrality at a faster pace.”

Armin Laschet


“Climate change is not abstract any more. We are experiencing it up close and painfully.”



Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said:

“Governments would have to get better and faster in their efforts to tackle the impact of climate change.”


“Germany is a strong country and we will stand up to this force of nature in the short term — but also in the medium and long term, through policy that pays more regard to nature and the climate than we did in recent years. That will be necessary too.”


Alexander De Croo

Without pointing to any empirical evidence, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the link with climate change is clear.

Politicians need to face up to a few facts.

A number of scientists had previously sent German officials a series of weather forecasts warning that the Rhineland was about to be hit by extreme flooding, particularly along the Erft and Ahr rivers. The alarm was given 4 days prior to the first floods – and ignored.

Dr. Hannah Cloke, professor of hydrology at Reading University said this was:  “A monumental failure of the system.”

She added:

“I’m disappointed that particularly in the cities you had people washed away. That suggests that lots of things are going badly wrong. People should have been receiving warnings; people should have understood the warnings. It’s no use having massive computer models predicting what’s going to happen if people don’t know what to do in a flood.”

Cloke and her colleagues had designed the European Flood Awareness System (Efas) anticipating future floods. Detailed maps and charts predicted most of the areas that would suffer the heaviest damage from inevitable future floodplain inundation.

German authorities were sent accurate forecasts stating that the Rhineland was about to be hit by “extreme” flooding, particularly along the Erft and Ahr rivers, and in towns such as Hagen and Altena.

Compounding their negligence, German officials left dams at full capacity at least 3 weeks before the extended European rainy season when water should have been spilled. They failed to order a controlled release of water when they knew rain was forecast.

Empirical evidence, as documented by Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, rejects the politicians “climate change is to blame” mantra.  Lomborg made clear that:

“Floods, hurricanes, wildfires and sea-level rise are not following the climate alarmist claims.”

Additionally, the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) summarised the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) statement as saying:

“The IPCC did not attribute changes in flooding to anthropogenic influence nor report detectable changes in flooding magnitude, duration or frequency.” (USGCRP 2017, P240)

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have dismissed claims by climate alarmists that (imaginary) global warming has caused or worsened extreme weather events, including flooding in Europe.

Whether it is opportunism or ignorance, politicians need to listen to geoscientists who have tried to point them to the literature on flood plains in their areas of jurisdiction. Areas of high risk are well known:

Europe flood risk areas

Geoscientists can also explain to carbon dioxide-obsessed politicians how those floodplains have evolved and why development in those areas inevitably leads to lower infiltration, higher runoff and why those floodplains should be better managed.

Danube Floodplain: Wachau Valley. Photograph by Dr. John Happs

Rhine river gorge.

Without wasting time and effort on Green Zealots and attention seeking reporters, there is a need to explain to carbon dioxide-obsessed politicians that, over millions of years, valleys and gorges have been carved out by frequent rainfall causing rivers to rise, flooding the area and carrying away eroded material:

There is ample information and evidence available should politicians really want to heed it. For instance, Follner et al. (2010) provided a status report on German floodplains, pointing to:

“The continued decline in floodplain area due to competing land uses.”

They note that:

“Less than 10% of the active floodplains fully provide their ecological functions.”

Brunotte et al. (2009) have also made clear that:

“The floodplains of the larger rivers in Germany have lost on average two-thirds of their former area and in many sections even 80 to 90% of its original extent.”

Floodplain deposits provide a geochemical archive of flood history. Berner et al. (2012) have examined sediment cores that have provided flood records for the Rhine River in Germany from 1650 to 1920.

Historic records of floodplain inundation by the river Ahr have been discussed by Roggenkamp and Herget (2014). Those records show there were widespread flooding episodes between 1804 and 1937 and high flood level markings are located in Altenahr, Ahrweiler, Dernau and Walporzheim:

After Roggenkamp et al (2014)

The recent floods saw the small village of Schuld inundated. Situated on a floodplain in a narrow valley in the Eifel region in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, The Schuld flood saw the loss of more than half of the homes.

The commuter town of Blessem, west of Cologne, saw submerged streets and homes along with the partial collapse of Blessem Castle.

Further along the Ahr River, the town of Dernau, also sited on a floodplain, was inundated. According to Roggenkamp et al. the 1804 River Ahr flood was the largest in historic times yet they predict that greater flooding is likely to occur in the future as a result of increased floodplain development.

Politicians need to know that the history of Europe is littered with examples of catastrophic floods. There were severe floods in Europe in 1342, 1501 and 1595 with massive flooding across Germany, France, Austria and the Netherlands in 1784. Flooding occurred again in 1882, 1888 and 1908.

The 1717 Christmas flood that impacted Northern Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark killed around 14,000 people.

In 1953 flooding in Europe killed around 3,000 people.

Unfortunately, many people have died in this latest European flood disaster and more will perish in future floodplain inundations if politicians continue to ignore the facts, rather than pathetically lay the blame on climate change.

The flooded town of Altenau in Rhineland Palatinate has been built on an area that is a natural flood area of the Ahr River. Science editor Axel Bojanowski , commenting on claims that the flood was caused by German carbon dioxide emissions, responded:

“The climate argument is used by politicians to deflect attention from their own responsibility for a disaster. Records show flash floods are less dangerous than before despite climate change.”

Bojanowski went further, saying:

“Politicians, authorities and the media point to climate change as the cause of the flood disaster. Yet severe weather warnings were not taken seriously. And disaster protection in our country is at the level of a developing country.”   (My emphasis)

Former environmental activist Michael Shellenberger has called out the wild exaggerations of climate doomsayers in his book: “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.”

Shellenberger says he is “fed up with the exaggeration, alarmism, and extremism that are the enemy of a positive, humanistic, and rational environmentalism.” He points out that there has been no increase in rainfall or flood occurrence across Europe:

“Qualitative and quantitative hydrological studies for Europe have indicated no general continental-wide trend in river flood occurrences, extreme precipitation, or annual maxima of runoff.”


“When scientists account for greater wealth, they found a considerable decline in financial losses since 1870 that accelerated after 1950. What has changed is more people living in flood zones, and more paved areas, which means less ground to absorb excess water.”

How do we get the following messages across to politicians?

  1. Floodplains are plains that flood. They are centres of biodiversity and provide natural flood protection if they are not developed.
  2. Atmospheric carbon dioxide has never driven global temperature at any time over the last 500 million years.
  3. There is no evidence to show that extreme weather events are increasing.

Whenever politicians and climate change activists claim that (imaginary) global warming is causing or worsening extreme weather events, such as widespread flooding, well-documented evidence shows they are either blissfully unaware of the facts or they are telling bare-faced lies.

(Unless directly attributed, all other images sourced from

Dr. John Happs M.Sc.1st Class; D.Phil. John has an academic background in the geosciences with special interests in climate, and paleoclimate. He has been a science educator at several universities in Australia and overseas and was President of the Western Australian Skeptics for 25 years.