Saturday, August 25, 2007

Europe - fires, flood planning and policy making

Never underestimate how fast a fire can move through vegetation in a state of drought. In Greece, following weeks of extreme heat, wildfires have roared through rugged terrain, killing at least 49 people.

Hot, dry seasonal winds drove the flames across a landscape parched by successive heat waves. Reduced winds and a slight dip in temperatures were forecast for Sunday.

The fires were so severe that authorities said they could not yet provide an estimate of how much damage they had caused, nor what expanse of land had been burned.

Meanwhile, in England, where towns are still reeling from this summer's flooding, a report by the Hull City Council called for a national program to improve defenses against more extreme flooding that will come with climate change. The defenses suggested would mainly be improved drainage systems, able to handle a once-every-30-years flood.

Over 7,200 homes and 1,300 businesses were damaged in Hull during its wettest June since 1882.

The low-lying city relies on a system of pumps to keep flooding at bay, and the report questioned whether the existing capacity was capable of handling a 1 in 30 year storm.

Finally, from Germany comes word that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is currently enjoying her highest popularity since taking office, pledged to fight climate change in the second half of her term. Yes, it may just be policitics, but let's hope not.
The centrepiece of the cabinet's plans is a list of energy saving measures to fight climate change which will help reduce CO2 emissions by 36 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.

"For the first time in the history of modern Germany, we have moved beyond defining goals towards agreeing on concrete steps on climate change," Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel told German television.

Although it will take up to a year to pass the new laws, Germany wants to set the tone for the global climate debate ahead of a U.N. meeting in Bali in December which will try to launch new talks for the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.

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