5 December 2003

France links fatal floods to global warming

'As far as Marseilles and the Rhone Estuary is concerned, we are over the worst. But around the Herault the catastrophe is continuing,' the Deputy Foreign Minister, Renaud Muselier, a regional deputy, told France 2 television.

'It seems clear the climate is changing,' he said when asked to explain flooding that has ravaged this part of south-east France two years in succession.

In September 2002, the nearby Gard region was hit by similar floods.

President Jacques Chirac announced on Wednesday that the state had set aside � million ($19.75 million) of immediate aid to the region. Mr Muselier pledged the Government would ensure that compensation for flood damage would be swift.

Road, rail and air traffic have been disrupted by rain and high winds, and four nuclear power reactors were shut down as flooding along the River Rhone and its tributaries between Lyon and Marseille turned the region into a disaster area.

Extreme weather events are increasing. They cost the economy. An economic model that says Kyoto is bad for the GDP but ignores the cost of extreme weatehr events is short-sighted to say the least. Falling back on pseudo-science is just a form of psychological denial.

At the same time as the floods in the south of France we hear:

"There is no doubt that the composition of the atmosphere is changing because of human activities, and today greenhouse gases are the largest human influence on global climate," Thomas Karl said, director of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Centre, and Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research.

The likely result is more frequent heat waves, droughts, extreme precipitation events, and related impacts, eg, bushfires, heat stress, vegetation changes, and sea-level rise," they added in a commentary to be published in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

They estimate that between 1990 and 2100, there is a 90 per cent probability that average global temperatures will rise by between 1.7 and 4.9 degrees Celsius because of human influences on climate.

There is a middle course between shutting down the economy and disregarding the environment. Australia has yet to find it.

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