Blame, responsibility and demand for change following floods

Nov 26, 2012
Blame, responsibility and demand for change following floods
Flooding can devastate communities.

New research shows concerns about governmental failure to act effectively and fairly in the aftermath of extreme weather events can affect the degree to which residents are willing to protect themselves.

Published in the journal Nature , the findings of a team led by scientists at the University could prove key to establishing how society should evolve to cope with more turbulent weather and more frequent mega storms.

The team examined attitudes in Cumbria in north west England and Galway in western Ireland, which were both hit by heavy flooding in November 2009. Record rainfall was recorded in both countries, resulting in a number of deaths, properties being severely damaged and economic disruption.

Professor Neil Adger of Geography at the University of Exeter, who led the research, said: "The flooding of 2009 was devastating to both communities. Our study is the first to track the impacts of floods across two countries and how communities and individuals demand change after such events. When people in both studies felt that government had fallen short of their expectations, we found that the resulting perception of helplessness leads to an unwillingness to take personal action to prevent flooding in future."

Scientists at the University of Exeter worked with colleagues at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of , which also provided funding for the study.

Researchers surveyed 356 residents in both areas eight months after the flooding. They measured perceptions of governments' performances in dealing with the aftermath, as well as perceptions of fairness in that response and the willingness of individuals to take action.

Dr Irene Lorenzoni of the Tyndall Centre comments: "Residents in Galway were significantly more likely to believe that their property would be flooded again than those in Cumbria. Yet it was Cumbrians who believed they had more personal responsibility to adapt to reduce future incidents.

"Whether people felt responses were fair also diverged. In our survey in Cumbria three quarters of respondents agreed that everyone in their community had received prompt help following the flooding, while in Galway it was less than half."

Dr Conor Murphy of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth said: "The strong perception in Galway that authorities failed to deliver on the expectations of flooded communities in late 2009 is a wakeup call. Given the high exposure of development in flood prone areas it is clear that both England and Ireland need to make major investments in building flood resilience with changing rainfall patterns induced by climate change. Political demand for those investments will only grow."

Professor Adger says: "Our research shows that climate change is likely to lead to a series of crises which will cause major disruption as instant short-term solutions are sought. We need to consider the implicit contract between citizens and government agencies when planning for floods, to enable fairer and smoother processes of adaptation."

Explore further: Beijing's focus on coal lost in haze of smog

More information: Adger, W. N., Quinn, T., Lorenzoni, I., Murphy, C. and Sweeney, J. (2012) Changing social contracts in climate change adaptation. Nature Climate Change 10.1038/nclimate1751

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Lurker2358
5 / 5 (1) Nov 26, 2012
In the past, before government social programs existed, people took more responsibility for themselves in terms of when and where they built a home.

First, don't misunderstand, government emergency and social programs are absolutely critical in my view, but the problem in terms of disasters is not one of social programs or emergency relief. It's a WISDOM problem, largely on the part of individuals and businesses.

"The fool built his house upon the sand..."

Yet in America we have people building houses along the ocean or Gulf a foot or two above sea level on what amounts to a barrier Island or a sand bar; see Bolivar Peninsula in Texas, and the Jersey Shore and New York areas.

If we have building codes where houses must be above the 100 year flood mark for freshwater flooding, why is there no such code for salt water Storm Surge flooding?

The 100 year flood mark for hurricane related storm surge flooding is FAR above what anyone in any of those homes and businesses achieves.
Lurker2358
5 / 5 (1) Nov 26, 2012
If you only go by 30 to 50 year flood mark plans, then you're basically destroying a neighborhood worth of houses every 30 years or so, just about time they finally get paid for. It's not wonder the economics of disaster relief always fails, when we live in a civilization where people can build in the highest risk locations possible and bankrupt themselves (and the small businesses too) because of what amounts to just plain FOOLISHNESS and IDIOCY.

Americans:

Guy: "Look honey! A hurricane hits this beach and destroys everything every few decades!"

Wife: "This is a perfect spot to build a new home!"

Repeat a million times...

A few decades later:

Ike flattens the Bolivar and parts of Galveston, Katrina flattens part of NOLA and much of Mississippi, Irene and then Sandy in the northeast.

Meanwhile, people who live a few miles inland and a few feet higher in elevation suffer nothing but power outage and a few tree falls; Irene was exceptional case in mountain terrain.