Monday, February 17, 2014

The great 1928 flood of London

Floods are nothing new for the Thames

In 1928 the Thames flooded much of central London, with fatal consequences. It was the last time the heart of the UK's capital has been under water. How did the city cope and what has changed?

It was after midnight when the river burst its banks. Most Londoners slept as the floodwaters gushed into some of the nation's grandest buildings and submerged many of city's narrowest slum streets under 4ft of water.

The Houses of Parliament, the Tate Gallery and the Tower of London were all swamped. So too, tragically, were many of the crowded basement dwellings into which the city's poorest families were crammed. Some 14 souls drowned and thousands were left homeless.

The date was 7 January 1928. There was no early warning system to wake householders, no Thames Barrier to protect the city from tidal surges.

A modern observer would not find the aftermath entirely unfamiliar, however. As the waters were drained from Tube lines and debris cleared from the Embankment, there were political rows about dredging and whether local or central government should take responsibility.

The river poured over embankments at Southwark, Lambeth, Temple Pier and the Houses of Parliament, where Old Palace Yard and Westminster Hall were quickly flooded.

"It came like a waterfall over the parapet and into the space at the foot of Big Ben," wrote the Times' correspondent.

The moat at the Tower of London was filled for the first time in 80 years. The Blackwall and Rotherhithe tunnels were under water. There was extensive flooding around Victoria Embankment Gardens, Charing Cross Station and King's College.

"There were miniature waterfalls at Cleopatra's Needle and the Royal Air Force Memorial, and the training ship President floated at street level," reported the Manchester Guardian.

According to some reports, the first section of the riverbank to give way was at Millbank by the Tate. Incredibly, given its proximity to the Thames, many of the gallery's works were stored in the lower ground floor. Some 18 were damaged beyond repair, 226 oil paintings were badly damaged and a further 67 were slightly damaged.

However, the most serious devastation was in the working class areas that backed on to the river.

What the Times described as the "many little narrow streets, courts and alleys, reminiscent of Shakespeare and his times" between Southwark and Blackfriars bridges were flooded, as was the Bankside area. Police went door-to-door urging residents to leave.

Many of them were taken away on carts. "The water was rising so quickly that many who were roused from their sleep simply threw a blanket round their shoulders and made their escape in their night attire," the Times said.

Worst affected were the slums on the Westminster side of Lambeth Bridge, where 10 of the 14 victims lost their lives.

"The people who died were poor people living in crowded basements," says Anna Carlsson-Hyslop of the University of Manchester's Sustainable Consumption Institute. They had little time to escape.

At one inquest, a man named Alfred Harding identified the bodies of his four daughters - Florence Emily, 18, Lillian Maude, 16, Rosina, six, and Doris Irene, two.

A separate hearing heard how two domestic servants, Evelyn Hyde, 20, and Annie Masters Moreton, 22, drowned in similar circumstances in a room they shared in Hammersmith. The coroner, Mr HR Oswald, said they had been "caught like animals in a trap drowned before they realised their position".

Flooding occurred as far west as Putney and Richmond. The high waters were caused by a depression in the North Sea which sent a storm surge up the tidal river. It was the highest levels the Thames had witnessed for 50 years.

The river had subsided by the end of the day. However, according to Alex Werner, head of history collections at the Museum of London, "It took maybe a month to pump out all the water."

What made the relief effort harder was that London had already suffered extensive flooding in the days leading up to 7 January. Heavy snow over the Christmas period had melted, swelling inland rivers and leaving much of east London under several feet of water.

The tidal flood along the Thames was a different order of magnitude, however.

The river's flood defences were designed to cope with a tide of 18ft above the Ordnance Datum. This height had been chosen to exceed the previous record of 17ft 6in, which was reached in 1881. The 1928 surge saw this exceeded by 11in.

In the wake of the flood, the embankments were raised. However, it would take the North Sea flood of 1953 to persuade the authorities to look into constructing the Thames Barrier.


UK weather: it's not as weird as our warmists claim

Misconceived EU and UK policies provide a better explanation of the floods than 'climate change'

Inevitably, in the wake of all these dramatic storms and floods, the usual suspects, eagerly abetted by the BBC, Channel 4 News and Sky, piled in to claim that the latest “extreme weather events” – coupled with blizzards in 49 of the 50 American states – are clear evidence of man-made global warming. At their forefront, proclaiming that “all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change”, was that arch-climate proponent Dame Julia Slingo, chief scientist at the Met Office; that same Met Office that, back in November, was predicting that “precipitation” for the three months between December and February was likely “to fall into the driest of our five categories”, and would more likely than not take the form of snow,

This is also, of course, the same Met Office that in March 2012 was assuring us that April to June that year would be drier than average, with April the driest month, just before we enjoyed the wettest April ever; that in October 2010 forecast that December would be 2ºC warmer than average, just before the coldest December since records began; and that in April 2009 said it was “odds on for a barbecue summer” with “below average” rainfall, just before the heavens opened for months on end.

Even more significantly, this was the same Dame Julia who, in 2010, told MPs that the global warming-obsessed Met Office relies for its short-term forecasts on the very same £33 million super-computer that it uses to provide the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with its most valued projections of what the weather will be like in 100 years’ time.

As we know, since the 17-year “pause” in the rise in global temperatures made a nonsense of all those IPCC computer models, the warmists have sought to prop up their faltering religion by seizing on any “extreme weather event” they can lay their hands on, hot, cold, wet or dry. These recent storms and floods have been as manna from heaven for the likes of our “climate change” secretary Ed Davey, Lord Stern, the Great Moonbat and Bob Ward, the spokesman handsomely paid to spout all the required mantras by Jeremy Grantham, the billionaire climate zealot who has funded no fewer than two institutes at leading London universities.

Another Grantham luminary, and leading light of John Gummer’s “independent” Climate Change Committee, is Sir Brian Hoskins, wheeled on to preach the word by the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Thursday. Although there might be “no simple link” to any of “these extreme events around the world”, he said (as they always do), nevertheless the increase in rainfall and atmospheric humidity, melting polar ice, temperatures likely to rise by “four to five degrees” by the end of the century and the threatening rise in sea levels, could only lead any sensible person to one conclusion.

All true science, of course, has here been thrown out of the window. There is no rising trend in atmospheric humidity. Put the Arctic and the Antarctic together and there is more polar sea ice today than at any time since satellite records began in 1979. Not even the IPCC predicts a temperature rise of 5ºC. The latest Nasa Grace satellite data on sea levels, which have been modestly rising since we emerged from the Little Ice Age 200 years ago, shows that, on the trend of the past decade, the rise by 2100 would be just 6.7in.

For proper evidence-based science these days one has to step outside the hermetically sealed bubble of warmist group-think and look to that array of expert blogs and websites that provide the data necessary to thinking straight. On the belief that Britain has recently experienced unprecedented rain, for instance, look at the analysis of the Met Office’s England and Wales rainfall data sets on Paul Homewood’s website, Not A Lot Of People Know That. There is no upward trend in our rainfall. Even January’s continual downpours made it only the sixteenth wettest month since records began in 1766. Even if this month’s rain adds a further 200mm (8in) to the December-January figure, the resulting 650mm would still be way short of the 812mm (32in) recorded between November 1929 and January 1930.

The real lesson of this episode is not that we are seeing unprecedented rain, but that, across the board, a whole raft of misconceived EU and UK policies have been horribly caught out. We now further have an official admission from the Environment Agency that the reason why it so disastrously abandoned dredging of our rivers such as the Thames and those needed to drain floodwater from the Somerset Levels when it took control in 1996 was that absurdly expensive new EU waste management rules made it “uneconomical” to dispose of the silt dredged out of them.

A real madness has taken over here, as we saw in that weird rant last week from the pitifully ill-equipped Mr Davey, when he lashed out at his “wilfully ignorant” Conservative colleagues for “parrotting the arguments of the most discredited climate change deniers”.

Whether or not it was he who described Owen Paterson as “climate stupid”, the one minister who has so far made a practical and informed contribution towards saving the Somerset Levels from any repeat of their present horror story, Davey claimed that these people were in danger of undermining the whole of Britain’s present energy policy. That, of course, is precisely what a growing number of better-informed people than himself would like to see.


Dim as an eco-friendly lightbulb: A portrait of British Liberal politician  who this week called climate sceptics 'diabolical'

Not heard of Ed Davey? You are forgiven. This fellow may be a Rt Hon, a multiple-red-box wallah, a fellow with a grand private office, spin doctors and attendant lackeys.

He may be Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change - a job so important that it comes with its own fuel-guzzling, ozone layer-torpedoing limousine. But he has a public profile as low as a limbo dancer.

Comrade Davey, 48, shines as dimly as an eco-friendly light bulb. How appropriate for a climate-change enthusiast.

In Parliament, when he speaks, gallery reporters lay down their pencils and fold their arms for a snooze, so confident are they that nothing remarkable will be said. He is not so much an orator as a platitudes-by-the-yard man.

One of the ways we sketchwriters pass the time during a Davey speech is to play Cliche Bingo. You get a point each time he says ‘challenge’ or ‘proactive’ or ‘empower’.

And yet, more by accident than merit, this over-diluted glass of Ribena, this wholesale accepter of received wisdoms, finds himself in one of the hottest Whitehall departments.

This week, he used that bully pulpit to make an indignant, bad-tempered little speech that insulted the intelligence of people who just happen to disagree with him.

He mounted a distinctly illiberal, hyperbolic attack on climate-change sceptics, calling them ‘wilfully ignorant, head-in-the-sand nimbys’ who were driven by ‘europhobia’. He waved aside considered and thoughtful doubts about the climate-change industry as ‘diabolical’.

Quite a word, isn’t it? It means Satanic, akin to devils, on a par with Lucifer. Just for being sceptical.

Along the way, he pretty much attributed the current bad weather to man-made global warming. To stuff so much nonsense into one small speech was quite a feat.

So who is this leviathan, this seer, this genetic composite of Michael Fish, Jacques Delors and Mr Pooter?

Ed Davey became an MP in the Centre-Left landslide of 1997, defeating sometime Tory minister Richard Tracey by just 56 votes. Before entering Parliament he had worked as a management consultant and as an adviser to Liberal Democrat MPs.

Although clearly ambitious, and in those days something of a pin-up, Davey was one of the less scintillating members of Paddy Ashdown’s band of desperadoes.

Some of the Lib Dems had a raffish individuality about them. They were unpredictable. They were independent-minded. But those qualities were never much evident in Ed Davey.

He was a party loyalist and his Commons interventions blew long with slogans and soundbites. Over 16 long years of listening to his dronings, I don’t think I have ever detected a scintilla of originality in any phrase or conclusion. He is about as radical as a mid-range Ford Focus.

He was quickly rewarded for such dullness with a frontbench brief on the Treasury. Gordon Brown was Chancellor at the time. Dear old Gordon would squint across the House at this pipsqueak Davey and you could see him thinking: ‘I’ll tae that wee sprat for mah high tea!’ Which he duly did.

Tory frontbenchers valiantly hurled themselves against the New Labour battlements, pointing out that Mr Brown was on a mad spending spree. They had no chance of altering the Government’s course but the Tories at least followed their principles and, as it happens, spoke the truth.

Ed Davey, Mr Mute, supported the status quo. He always does. At Westminster, the status quo blokes tend to do well. Mr Davey kept being promoted. Charles Kennedy gave him the education beat.   Menzies Campbell made him his chief of staff. Nick Clegg promoted him yet again to foreign affairs. (He is, naturally, wildly enthusiastic about Europe.)

Davey was like the girl in the Seventies TV adverts for Nimble bread. He was flying like a bird, rising and rising on thermals of consensus.

Given his ‘back story’, it is all rather disappointing, for his life outside politics has had its unexpected, indeed inspiring moments.

Born to a solicitor in the East Midlands, he lost his parents horribly early in life and made the most of his private education to take a first-class degree in economics at Oxford. Good for him.

The orphaned teenager worked in a pork-pie factory (hence, says a Lib Dem colleague cruelly, his chunky waistline). Again, good for him.

But having actually done a proper job, at least for a while, you might expect him to have acquired some more robustly common-sensical views.

As a young man he also risked his life to save a woman from some rail tracks and was duly rewarded with recognition by the Royal Humane Society. This is all good stuff.

So why on earth is he such a crashing bore politically? He subscribes to the Left’s big-state orthodoxy, to the Government-knows-best creed that has infected so much of our  political class.

In 2010 the Lib Dems went into Government for the first time since Lloyd George. Had Mr Davey been a Conservative he would have been fortunate to become even a ministerial bag-carrier, but because he was a Lib Dem - and a Lib Dem, furthermore, who did not have flat feet, a wall eye or a mad hairdo - he was made a minister.

He was given a middle-ranking job under Vince Cable at the Department of Business. He was minister for post offices. Minister for stamps.

There he probably would have stayed until being returned to the backbenchers, had it not been for Chris Huhne’s little local difficulty.

When Mr Huhne went to prison for perverting the course of justice, Nick Clegg looked around in desperation and gave his job to Mr Davey (energy having been designated a Lib Dem portfolio).

Little was either of them to know that Ed Miliband was about to make a big play with energy prices, making this a frontline department. Of course, one reason energy prices were so high was that they had been saddled with green taxes under a previous Energy Secretary - the self-same Miliband.

Rather than make political hay with this, as he could have done, Mr Davey wimped out and insisted that the green policies must remain in place. Who pays most for green taxes? The working poor.

Rather than question those policies, Mr Davey trotted out the mantra that we should regard it as a privilege to be paying so much more to keep the lights on. Lucky us to face such price hikes.

And now, playing to form, he uses the bad weather to bang the highly questionable drum for climate- change prevention and all the bureaucratic and fiscal burdens it brings.

Even more typically, climate change is produced as an argument to justify the great mothership itself - the European Union.

We keep being told the floods are unprecedented. Not true. They happened like this in the 17th century, when 2,000 poor souls died. No one spoke then about man-made climate change.

Scepticism was once regarded as an essential quality in any civilised and, yes, truly liberal society.  Scepticism tests the orthodox. All the great thinkers, from Socrates to Einstein, from Galileo to Marie Curie, were in their own way sceptics.  Scepticism challenges the old ways and that leads to progress and the truth.

But now scepticism is ‘diabolical’. Ed Davey has declared it to be so. If you dare to disagree with him, you must be the spawn of Satan.


UK: How 'money-saving' solar panels actually INCREASED my heating bills by 220 per cent!

Residents who were forced to have solar panels fitted to their homes under a green scheme are now being charged £1,000 more for heating.

The householders were given a £38,000 taxpayer-funded grant and were told the panels would generate spare electricity that they could sell back to the National Grid. They would be saving hundreds of pounds on their energy bills and helping the environment, they were told.

But the panels were incorrectly installed and, as a result, some people have seen their bills rise by up to 220 per cent. Sixty residents have signed a petition stating that many have been pushed into fuel poverty. Experts blame ‘inherent design issues’ for the problems, including panels fitted on the wrong sides of houses.

A total of 175 householders in Longtown, Cumbria, received the new system from Warmer Energy Services, financed by Riverside Housing Association.

The £38,000 grant came from a government-backed scheme called Cert (Carbon Emissions Reduction Target). One man has now turned off his boiler altogether. James Rob, 42, a window cleaner, who lives in a two-bedroom flat, used to pay £25 a week for heating. He said: ‘Any saving would have been fine, but now I’m paying £80 a week. I can’t afford it so I only heat one room with an electric heater.

‘The boiler is far too powerful, it is a 9kw boiler, enough to heat the Royal Albert Hall. It costs £1.24 an hour to heat.  ‘To rectify the problem and have a working system installed could cost £4,700.’

‘All money generated from the solar panels, which I don’t use, is going into the grid which Riverside then receives money for.’

Janet and Tom Boak switched to the new heating system in the spring of 2012.  They now pay £98 in monthly direct debits to EDF Energy for their three-bedroom semi-detached property which they live in with their two  sons. Before the scheme they paid £39 a month.

Mrs Boak, 51, a carer for her  57-year-old husband, said: ‘When we used to have the coal fire we would put the heating on when we got up  at 9am and the last shovel would go on at 9pm.

‘Now we only have it on from 6pm till 10pm because we can’t afford it. We are cold the rest of the time.

‘I had to use my Christmas savings to pay off a bill. We didn’t want the new system because we had one installed two years previously. We were told it was cheaper to run and we would make a significant saving. We felt we had no choice.’

Annie Graham, 77, a retired carer, has seen her electricity bills soar to nearly £3,000 a year – compared to £1,750 a year previously.

In one month alone she paid £450 to heat her three-bedroom semi-detached property. The great grandmother said: ‘I was told it would be cheaper and that if I refused I would be responsible for the upkeep and repairs to the old system. I am 77 years old and in the past year the new heating has cost me £3,000. I’ve just paid £82.32  for seven and a half days of keeping the house warm. I’m just on my basic pension.

‘When you get old you are just a number. I was active before this happened, I was doing everything – now I don’t go to Bingo.’

A report last December by  consulting engineers Avoca,  analysed the work at two complainants’ properties.

It stated: ‘It is evident the energy costs for each of the properties  surveyed has increased over and above the normal expected rate and certainly there has been no reduction in costs.

‘It has been established that the installed heating systems have inherent design issues that contradict the requirement for providing efficient, effective and economical heating to the properties.’

A Riverside spokesman said: ‘Generally the feedback from  tenants about the improvements has been very positive.

‘We are a non-profit organisation and use the income generated, by selling energy back to the National Grid, to improve homes and provide better services to tenants.’


Heating Up a Controversy

During his 2008 campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama said that electricity prices would "necessarily skyrocket" under his grandiose idea of a cap-and-trade energy scheme to fight global warming. Well, he actually kept his promise of higher prices. Meanwhile, with the Southern and Mid-Atlantic states currently buried beneath snow and ice, the only place that seems to be getting warmer is the area around a massive solar energy project in the California desert.

Since coming online last year, and even in the preliminary testing, dozens of dead birds have been found surrounding the Ivanpah solar power plant, which uses a five-square-mile array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to boilers mounted on three 40-story high towers. The temperatures around the towers reportedly can reach 1,000 degrees, which is enough to cook any size bird unfortunate enough to fly through the area. All this to create just enough electricity to light 140,000 homes a year at a cost of $2.2 billion. Most of that came from a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee, which means taxpayers are on the hook for three Solyndras here. A sure sign of exorbitant expense: utilities that are purchasing the power from Ivanpah aren't releasing the cost of their 25-year deals.

And while Ivanpah represents an ideal source of electricity in Barack Obama's world, the rest of us who live in the real world are enjoying a winter without the sticker shock of crippling natural gas prices. Despite a bitterly cold winter that caused a record-setting day for natural gas usage back in January, prices haven't been as unstable as in previous winters, even with a 40% jump. The reason? Americans are extracting their own natural gas through the environmentally incorrect practice of fracking.

So let's compare. The ideal for Barack Obama costs up to four times as much to produce a kilowatt of electricity, has the potential to cook hundreds or even thousands of birds annually in a giant oven, and is secured by a $1.6 billion taxpayer-backed loan guarantee. On the other hand, private enterprise has created a situation where supply shortages are smoothed out and costs are relatively stable -- not to mention the side benefit of producing thousands of good-paying jobs.

We'd be nuts not to embrace the method shown to us by the private sector, but everyone knows Obama is crazy about "fundamentally transforming" the nation we know and love.


Australia: Carbon tax figures add to pressure to repeal

Australian companies paid $6.6 billion in the first full year of the carbon tax, with the seven biggest electricity producers each slugged more than $250 million.

The first annual tally of carbon tax liabilities, released on Friday by the Clean Energy Regulator, was largely as forecast.

But the Abbott government seized on the sheer scale of the figures to increase pressure on Labor to "get out of the way" of its election promise to abolish the tax. Opposition leader Bill Shorten has vowed to block the government's carbon repeal bills in the Senate.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the "hit on the economy" from the tax was worse than Labor had predicted when the Gillard government introduced it last year.

He said the cost to the economy was $7.6 billion once reduced fuel tax credits and charges on the refrigeration and aviation industries were considered.

Of the 348 companies that paid the tax, NSW-based Macquarie Generation had the biggest bill at nearly $470 million. Great Energy Alliance, the company behind Victoria's Loy Yang power plant, paid $425 million.

Sixteen of the top 20 carbon tax contributors were power companies, with a combined bill of $4.1 billion, according to the six-monthly update by the Clean Energy Regulator.

Manufacturing companies paid a total $1.1 billion.

Mr Hunt used the numbers to renew the attack on Labor which has defended the tax.

"All Australians can blame Bill Shorten [for] helping to push up electricity bills and the overall cost of living," he said. "It's time for Labor to get out of the way and support the repeal of the carbon tax."

Mr Hunt said the $7.6 billion paid by companies had resulted in only a 0.1 per cent fall in emissions. Proof, he said, that "it doesn't even work".



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