What a laugh we all had a few weeks ago when that UK Independence Party councillor, David Silvester, said floods in England were caused by gay marriage. Remember the merriment? The eccentric (I’m being polite) Silvester wrote to his local newspaper in Oxfordshire to say that the reason we are ‘beset by storms’ is because PM David Cameron acted ‘arrogantly against the gospel’ by allowing gay people to get hitched, and the internet exploded into guffaws. Silvester became the subject of witty memes, mocking tweets, and searing newspaper critiques. He was eventually ditched by UKIP. Everyone asked the same question: ‘In the twenty-first century what sort of person seriously believes that natural calamities like floods can be blamed on allegedly “sinful” behaviour?!’
Well, now we know. Now, as flooding in the south-west of England has intensified in recent weeks, we know that it isn’t only strange men who take the Bible literally who see floods as some form of payback or punishment for humanity’s deviant behaviour – so do the supposedly rationalist, secularist sections of society, the very people who just three weeks ago will have had a good old hoot bashing backward Silvester’s moralisation of floodwaters. Even the right-on moralise the weather today, treating it almost as a sentient force, a lecturing force, a vengeful force, and viewing hard rains and gushing waters as a slap on the wrist to wicked mankind – no, not for being gay, but, in essence, for being greedy.
Over the past week, as more and more towns and areas in England have become flooded, the hunt has been on for proof that it’s the fault of manmade climate change – that is, of man himself, of polluting, thoughtless, fossil fuel-using man. So former Conservative environment secretary Caroline Spelman says the floods should be a ‘sharp reminder’ to climate-change sceptics that they are wrong and stupid – ‘what is happening now relates to what we were doing two decades ago’, she said, referring to humanity’s increasing emission of greenhouse gases. Nicholas Stern, treated by many greens as a god-like oracle warning us all of future manmade doom, says the floods were caused by ‘human activities’. From the fawningly faithful reporting of his words, you could be forgiven for thinking Moses himself had published some new tablets about man’s wrongdoings. Other observers say man’s behaviour, his emission of CO2, is ‘loading the dice’ of nature’s fury, making floods more likely and more epic. One says our ‘wild weather’, the reason ‘people’s lives and properties [are] at stake’, is because of manmade climate change.
Labour leader Ed Miliband explicitly moralised the weather yesterday, when he told the Observer that ‘people’s homes, businesses and livelihoods [are] coming under attack from extreme weather’, as if the weather were some kind of military force. ‘The science is clear’ as to why this is happening, said Miliband – because man’s activities have rattled the climate and we are now ‘sleepwalking into a national security crisis’ (there’s that militaristic metaphor again). One broadsheet columnist bizarrely makes a link between the floods and human behaviour that he clearly just doesn’t like, suggesting our ‘extreme weather’ could be down to ‘the undeniable waste of energy in British cities, where office lights shine through the night and supermarkets pump out hot air at open entrances and cold air in their freezer sections’. This is pretty blatantly just another variant of blaming man’s bad behaviour for floods, albeit a more PC version than David Silvester’s – the more secularist flood-exploiters see storms as a consequence of industry, of the thoughtlessness of office bosses, of the electricity use of big, fat supermarkets, where the more religious flood-exploiters see them as spin-offs of gay behaviour.
Ah, the allegedly rationalist ‘man causes floods’ lobby will say, but we have science on our side whereas Silvester just had the made-up stories of the Bible. Do they really have science on their side? Some pretty high-calibre experts have actually said there is ‘insufficient evidence’ to draw any direct line between climate change and particular floods or weather events. And as more sensible heads have pointed out, levels of rainfall in England have long been pretty unpredictable, and parts of England have always been prone to flooding. To declare that these floods are definitely a product of manmade climate change, of ‘human activities’, of ‘what we were doing two decades ago’, is as fact-lite and driven by underlying moral prejudices as was Silvester’s claim that gay marriage stirred up the storms.