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Underwater Britain Sunday November 19 2000

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Why was no mention made of changed farming habits in the last decade or so, resulting in vastly increased water run-off, in the Autumn and Winter? I've witnessed a lot of water running out off recently harvested fields of maize and barely germinated fields of winter crops. Well established pasture absorbs most of the rain. Woodlands stay even drier- so maybe Prince Charles is right - it's not so much the amount of rain but what it lands on!
Roger Maunder
Tiverton, Devon

First, I would like to say how much I normally enjoy and admire BBC factual programming and in particular Panorama.

As an over-populated island we allow far too much housing to be built in flood plains

Aaron Ridsale, Sheffield
It is therefore all the more distressing that I watched last night's edition "Underwater Britain" with increasing frustration and disbelief. The floods of the past few weeks, though bringing misery to many, prove only one thing conclusively. That is, as an over-populated island we allow far too much housing to be built in flood plains and provide inadequate protection for those in flood endangered areas. Although these recent floods have been severe there is no scientific foundation to propose that these are anything other than natural occurrences. Having unqualified programme contributors state that "they can't ever remember it being so bad" just doesn't cut the mustard if you're looking for a scientific base for your conclusions. Floods happen, they have always happened and they will happen again. To propose that this flooding is a sign of things to come, to blame them on 'Climate Change' and to casually allow the impression to go unchallenged that 'science agrees' that these changes can be attributed to man-made causes is both wholly misleading and unfounded. If your researchers bothered to do any research on this subject, instead of blindly regurgitating the propaganda spouted from those with political, financial and alternative environmental agendas, they would see that far from being conclusive the actual scientific data does not support in any way the claims of the most recent doomsday evangelists. I have included a web site address ( that takes an alternative, and some may say more balanced view, of the facts. Many of the links contained here also provide very interesting reading to those that care to take the time. Many of the articles are a few years old but don't be misguided into believing that science has moved on. The Global Climate Models (GCM), on which so many place so much store, are still fundamentally flawed. A recent spokesman on BBC radio stated, in a discussion on the recent leak from the Hague Summit on Global Warming predictions, that "you'd expect that as time moves on scientists would become more confident of the data [from GCM's] but in fact the margin for error is increasing". Environmental bodies have other axes to grind and by embracing Global Warming they have the perfect vehicle to further their causes. A recent spokesman for Friends of the Earth was allowed to state on BBC radio, again unchallenged, that Global Warming sceptics are "idiots". When is the BBC, and in particular respected programmes such as Panorama going to take a stand against this rhetoric and expose a scandal that is happening on a truly global scale?
Aaron Ridsdale

We have seen shifts in weather patterns before - Vineyards up around Newcastle in Roman times, Thames frozen so that a market could be held on it in the 1700's so why could this not be shift as well ? And why should this one bad event be any more evidence of global warming that say the floods of 1947? The stories of individuals are very sad but last nights programme had nothing from other scientists that reduce the dire warnings put out on the TV last night? This debate is still not decided - look at the US position and instead it would have more productive to talk about the choices we face as a whole instead of concentrating on the effects on a few people
Tony Sudworth

I think that more pressure should be put on the Americans as they cause the most pollution.
Carl Rylander

Transport is a major cause of certain greenhouse gases, and yet it is illegal for a travel company to provide shared, door-to-door passenger transport. Such a system MIGHT tempt a car-driver, standing at a bus-stop will not. Any comments ?
Jim Williamson

I am surprised at the number of people who do not relate carbon dioxide emissions with global warming

C Snell, York
Thank you for your programme on climate change, being a citizen of York I found it especially appropriate. I am surprised at the number of people who do not relate carbon dioxide emissions with global warming, and therefore I wish to provide yet another reason to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Whilst global warming is of threat to ourselves, and future generations, it is also important to remember other social-environmental problems that currently threaten our quality of life. For example emissions from road transport and subsequent air pollution are responsible for respiratory problems, such as asthma - killing around 2000 children and adults every year. Air pollution overall is thought to lead to 24,000 premature deaths per year in the UK alone. So even if you don't accept that carbon dioxide emissions lead to global warming (and thus do not see the need to reduce car use or indeed other forms of energy related to fossil fuel), there are many other serious social and environmental reasons to reduce such emissions. Health problems related to air pollution being just one.
C Snell B.A

John Prescott was firmly pushing the notion of everyone's contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The government must show example through change in energy policy. A greater use of Nuclear Energy will see a reduction in the UK's contribution. To achieve the same levels of saving in CO2 from the current "Magnox" power stations alone, all private cars and taxis would have to be taken off UK roads for one and a half days a week, every week.
David Jones

How come everybody believes that the recent rain is due to global climate change. The weather is dictated by the chaos theory so how can we be so sure about what caused the rain. We don't understand global climate change by a very long margin. It seems to me that we are more than happy to link together two of the most complicated environment issues today with very little knowledge. We are merely jumping on a media bandwagon (John Prescott included).
Russell Buckley

I don't think that we should look at the UK to see if global warming is having an effect as the changes involved here are very minute but if we look to other places in the world global warming seems the most probable cause. In my view more research needs to be done but more must be done to reduce CO2 emissions as we know that these along with other factors are having a major affect on our climate.
N Jumbu
Nottingham, England

The tone of the programme was disappointing, unbalanced and 'unscientific'. Whilst the 'Greenhouse Effect' and global warming remain a possibility, there is very little evidence to support many of the claims - regrettably, Panorama neglected to point this out. It is well established that the atmospheric levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are rising - few serious scientists disagree with this. However, in the community, there is no consensus on whether global temperatures are also rising. There are complied data sets from land-based weather stations that show a general warming trend, particularly over the last 30 years, but these data are in dispute. For example, I direct you to the NASA Global Hydrology and Climate Centre web site and to the following link in particular: Presented there are global temperature maps averaged for every month since 1979, and a graph showing clearly that whilst some areas have warmed, others have cooled, but overall NO DISCERNIBLE GLOBAL WARMING HAS OCCURRED SINCE 1979. Radio sonde balloon measurements over the same period are broadly consistent with the satellite data. These points were strenuously made in the 1996 IPCC report, but were omitted from the report summary. Consequently, many of the original contributing experts have now signed a petition disclaiming the 1996 IPCC conclusions. It is a pity that the BBC could not have made a more balanced programme. What might have been more informative, and more in keeping with the BBC's impartial reputation, would be an investigation into why in our society it is now acceptable to allow political interference before scientific fact has been established (c.f. BSE / GM food, etc.).
Dr Peter Dominy

Comments in this discussion so far seem to range from "global warming is not happening" to "its happening so fast we can't do anything about it". Neither is very helpful. When the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change says its happening and that mankind's influence on the climate is discernible they should be listened to as they are generally rather cautious. They are calling for action to cut climate changing gases now.

Let's adopt the precautionary approach and make the cuts as if the climate was changing as fast as it appears to be

Simon Tompsett, Richmond
Would it not be sensible to take a precautionary approach and make major cuts in CO2 and the other gases? If it turned out that the majority of the world's scientists were wrong then we would have the advantage of much more energy efficient processes and equipment that would save benefit the economy. If, as is more likely, they are correct the steps we can take now would prevent the situation getting even worse. Currently we are accelerating the rate of CO2 growth and that really can't be healthy. Even if we are heading for a new ice age the effect of climate change could cause so much damage before the cooling starts so we must act now to reduce the waste of energy that is happening world-wide. Let's adopt the precautionary approach and make the cuts as if the climate was changing as fast as it appears to be. The price of doing this and being wrong is likely to be far lower than doing nothing and being wrong.
Simon Tompsett

Congratulations to Panorama for another excellent show. I was struck by the gravity of the situation shown on the show, and shocked that the same pictures hadn't been on the BBC 1 News at the time. As usual John Prescott's visit seemed to be purely a publicity stunt and an opportunity to apportion blame to everyone except himself and his government.

Excellent informative programme, not least because I live (Selby) and work (York) in areas affected. Wondered why tree planting and digging of drainage canals were not touched on as long-term solutions/seeking Dutch expertise?
Pam Davenport

I am a planning lawyer, and was slightly bemused that Panorama did not pick up on one of the key dilemmas facing John Prescott - not only does he now have a draft policy which presumes against development on flood plains, but he also has a policy which commits the government to providing an enormous amount of new homes over the coming decade. The two policies do not sit easily side by side. Whilst the government wishes to provide up to 60% of these new homes in urban areas ("brownfield sites"), much of this new accommodation will need to be allocated on flood risk sites if the government's regeneration/development targets are to be met. For certain regions, this is going to be extremely problematic. Many local authorities are going to have to weigh in the balance economic growth and regeneration against what still remains a minimal, yet alarming, risk of flooding. Not an easy choice.
Gary Sector

Before work is begun on reinforcing flood defences has any thought been given to dredging rivers? This would not only make the river deeper but also the silt removed could be used to form a further defence on the riverbank.
Stewart Harrison
Bishopthorpe, York

I live in the picturesque village of Shaldon. Unfortunately most of the village lies on a tidal flood plain. A planning application has been put in to develop the lowest part of this flood plain. The level of the site is about 1.0m O.D. in other words it is below almost every high tide. Some 200 years ago this area was protected by an embankment which is at 3.2m O.D. Remarkably the Environment Agency has recommended planning consent be given in spite of the advice in PPG25, and the fact that protecting the site by raising its level increases the risk of flooding to neighbouring properties especially the local single storied infant school. What can I do about this travesty of planning advice, repeated letters have only brought forth the response that the Environment Agency will no longer reply to my questions.
Mr E M Beaney

Much has been made of building on flood plains but I read nothing about central London's flood plains, e.g. Waterloo station was built on the Thames flood plain. Are we to be sure that south London will be free of such floods in the future, despite all of the engineering from Victorian times onwards? It would be nice to have views from some independent experts (as well as from Thames Water). Don't forget that it is not just building property that covers the land but also roads and removing natural areas that stops the water going where it wants to on the one hand and encourages rapid run-off on the other.
Graham Feakins
Herne Hill, London

Panorama has a reputation for high quality investigative journalism based on facts. I was hoping to hear more of an answer to the questions a) just how excessively unusual was the rainfall last month? (No actual figures were quoted during the programme) and b) how much of the floods can be explained by human interference with flood plains and increasing amounts of tarmac and concrete where water would normally drain? If it can't drain off in the usual places then naturally it will spread out or rise more. It was disappointing to find that this issue was addressed only briefly in the last ten minutes of the programme, when it seems to be an obvious route to follow. The floods are not definitely due to global warming. There is also the issue that wherever sea walls and defences are made, the water ends up diverted elsewhere - further along the coast etc. causing damage to somebody else. I would also like to hear more about theories of climate change in general, since there have evidently been quite a few before - and evidence now seems to show that they have happened in the past much more quickly than previously thought in some cases, greenhouse gases, humans or not - what happened to the researchers investigating fluctuations in the Sun's behaviour? It would be good to see someone investigating just how much the floods have been due to human interference with the land rather than the air - people seem to be ignoring this and talking about buying new energy efficient kettles and toasters!
H Mayes

It would be rash to assume it is global warming as the case is not conclusive

David Powys, Old Windsor
It is the easy option to blame global warming - what if it isn't? For example the programme reported on the ocean levels rises, but no mention of the land falling, the report mentioned the global temperature rise, but no mention of the high level of ultra violet radiation from the sun over the last decade, and no mention of Nasa's research which failed to detect global warning. Also no mention of the shift in the jet stream which could have a very significant impact. It would be rash to assume it is global warming as the case is not conclusive, and if, by chance, it is not global warming then our governments could be about to make wrong and expensive decisions.
David Powys
Old Windsor

1)Britain's climate is notoriously inconsistent. It strikes me that every decade throws up at least one record of some sort. 2)Is there any long term accurate record of atmospheric CO2 levels? 3)In about 1985 we had some of the lowest temperatures ever recorded (<-20degC in November). Shortly after an article appeared in New Scientist stating that this was incontrovertibly due to the canonical alignment of planets resulting in a shortening of summer by a few days each year, hence we were entering a little ice age which would last at least 20 years. The article's author could provide historical evidence for this. You may draw your own conclusions about the infallibility of predictive models of complex systems from this.
A. C. Young
Saffron Walden

We have lived at our Watermill for 26 years and are deeply concerned at the total cessation of watercourse maintenance on the Cuckmere. There are well established TREES growing in the centre of the riverbed which cause serious damming and consequent backing up of water in times of flood. Every cubic metre of water that gets away early prevents consequent backed up water levels. To many houses in the village every inch counts. A clean well maintained watercourse could save many people from constant flooding following unremarkable amounts of rainfall. Never mind grand new expensive flood defences - could we not maintain the drainage systems already in place which have fallen into such disgraceful decay.
Vanessa Minns
Hellingly, Cuckmere River

The Panorama programme and the media in general have a very poor understanding of the subject of global warming.

Ninety eight percent of warming is an entirely natural event which we can do nothing about

David Woodcock, South Woodham Ferrers
Yet again we hear of man's impact on the temperature of the planet and that its all down to burning fossil fuels and the motor car. The truth is that it has very, very little to do with man and our impact probably amounts to one or two percent of the warming. Ninety eight percent of warming is an entirely natural event which we can do nothing about. That means that if you banned every car on the face of the planet we would still be faced with the problem. What we should be doing is tightening planning permission in flood plains, or just put up with these kinds of floods once every thirty years or so. As we have done so for countless centuries in the past. It was only a few years ago that we were told by the media that we would constantly live without water in the summers, since then we have had three summers with continuous rain! Isn't it about time programmes like Panorama stopped propagating myths about mans ability to change the weather on the whole planet, its quite ridiculous. One good sized volcanic eruption will severely reduce global temperatures for five years or more and I suppose that will be mans fault as well!
David Woodcock
South Woodham Ferrers, Essex

We in Britain should make the people of AMERICA more aware of the damage they are doing to the world through there greed for more fuel and total waste of energy
Derek Harrison

This evening's Panorama on the current floods and their probable association with global warming provokes many thoughts. It is generally assumed that global warming is new and caused by human industry. This is by no means certain ; 150,000 years ago, as we have learned from measurements of oxygen isotope ratios from ocean floor drill core samples, temperatures were actually higher than are now projected for coming decades, without the benefit of Neanderthal heavy industries. Reputable estimates ascribe a good half of current temperature changes to the solar ( sunspots) cycles and their interaction with cosmic particles (rays) as nuclei for cloud condensation. Opposing all this, we are approaching the end of a warm interglacial period ( at least according to the Milutin Milankovitch patterns of the past million or so years), and thus face a possible new Ice Age within the coming few centuries as well. Volcanism, magma chamber eruptions as predicted for Yellowstone National Park, submarine volcanic induced massive landslides, asteroid/comet impacts and even Gamma Ray Bursters, all demonstrate that Life and human civilisation lives in a cosmic ecosystem, and is subject to risks of catastrophes both from our own restless womb planet and the universe from which we are derived and into which we are destined to migrate. Humans alone of all creatures on Earth have imagination, foresight, science and technology; these can and must be used not merely to survive and cope with such changeable conditions, but to turn them to our advantage for the aggrandisement of Mind as a radical new force in the Universe. For instance, we are told that we face floods in winter and droughts in summer, and rising sea levels; let us siphon off the swollen river waters upstream into new reservoirs against droughts in the summer; let us deliberately cultivate food fish in these reservoirs, and let us use rising tidal sea waters for power generation . Let us, in the knowledge that Earth is a treacherous place for advancing civilisation, set out deliberately to disperse Humanity beyond our planet of origin, and bring Life and Mind to a currently barren Galaxy; this, rather than the tedious grumbling, fatalism, short sightedness, and hedonism of a decadent culture would be a truly heroic and significant response to the crises ahead. The 21st century can be a century of misery and retreat or of interplanetary advancement - there is, it seems, no Third Way. I am author of Man Medicine and Space, available soon from
DR Michael Martin-Smith BSc MRCGP FBIS

A plea for more balance in your programme . It sounds like the "Club of Rome" in the '60s. In this country, at the turn of the last three centuries, we have experienced exceptional weather. This year & next are "solar maximums", always bad weather, also at the start of the year, Mt Heclar erupted, and although this was dismissed as not effecting the global climate, due to its latitude, these events do effect our weather locally.
St Austell, Cornwall.

If the government is serious about trying to cut CO2 emissions it needs to take the following steps: Reverse the cut in VAT on domestic fuel and restore it to standard rate. Phase out all electricity generation by fossil fuel by substituting tidal and nuclear sources. Improve roads so that traffic moves efficiently instead of burning fuel sitting in jams. Invest in public transport and subsidise fares. Build new railway lines and re-open branch lines.
Brian Worboys

I am surprised at the glib dismissal of global warming by a number of contributors who are clearly not well informed. Do they think it all hinges on a few exceptional floods in England?

Much more must be stressed about how we can cut down on producing carbon dioxide

Gareth Pritchard, Berkhamsted
Have they not read the increasingly alarming news over the past ten years? I suggest they catch up by checking out some of the 180,000 sites under Global Warming on the web, including the BBC's excellent digest.

Thank you for a sobering programme. However I feel that much more must be stressed about how we can cut down on producing carbon dioxide - e.g. car sharing/efficient public transport/ pressure on USA to conform morally to what the world requires re: use of fossil fuel energy/ alternative fuels. Please could this be a 'follow up' programme for a future Panorama edition?
Gareth Pritchard

Given that we are an increasingly urbanised population the majority of us will remain apathetic to climate change until we are directly affected. Until London, Manchester, Birmingham and the like experience the damage and disruption of places such as rural Kent and York the battle to alter the public's opinion on global warming will be an uphill one. It needs to be fully explained why we need to act now to secure a future free from widespread flooding. Also the issue needs to be de politicised, in all our interests, so that an objective plan of action can be drawn up, acting in the nations interest and able to justify the amounts required.
Christian Daly

Over the last 20 years as a dog walker every day I feel that the climatic change is being dramatised. I used to be soaking wet through to the skin every single day, not any more. Also I and others are sick of paying insurance to cover those who's homes are built on land that is floodplain.

If you build next to water then you stand a good chance you will be in it some day

Greta Sainsbury, Cardiff
Developers should pay the costs not us the ratepayers. The planners should be sacked they alone are responsible for this current situation. I do not want to pay for others who are continually flooded each year. There is definitely a cycle of change in the weather, but hasn't there always been. There is not the industrial pollution now that there used to be. We do not have the great fogs any more. You can't have everything. If you build next to water then you stand a good chance you will be in it some day. The names of streets often tell you what used to be. Why are we not holding those who have allowed the building on floodplains to be responsible, and bear the cost. Developers run with the money. This just cannot continue, action must be taken.
Greta Sainsbury
Radyr, Cardiff

Your programme was very interesting. But one point you failed to bring across was as the earth's temperature rises so the Polar regions melt releasing the vast amounts of fresh water into the North Atlantic. (See reports from Canada on the increase in Ice Berg in the Greenland Area) This increase in fresh water will drive the Gulf stream to greater depths and could force this body of warm water further south. This would then allow colder weather conditions to prevail in the UK, in effect bring in an New Ice Age for Northern Europe.
Capt. Robert L Kemball

The statement from Mr. Prescott regarding the revision of government regulations and permission for building upon or near flood plains, is one that several people, in particularly the Walsgrave plus other districts of Coventry, would like him to keep and action immediately. For he has not long ago given permission for a Hospital of several stories in height, to be built upon the flood plain of the river Sowe. The area in question has, in the recent floods, been under one to two metres of water. This area has flooded in the past during the winter seasons but has not been to such a great height. It is feared that the hospital itself, if built, could increase major flooding problems in other areas, already subject to flooding, lower downstream and itself be consistently subjected to basement flooding each year, with possible soil subsidence and erosion. We would therefore indeed in the light of his statement request he revisits his permission and prevent the flood plain from being further eroded by development. There is another existing site within the city not subjected to flooding problems and more accessible to the general population and has an existing hospital which could be redeveloped with relative safety and without the need for expensive flood barriers.
Chris Smith

I don't know if I'm alone in this but for the first time in my life (age44) I think I'm hearing a senior politician expressing genuine concern over an issue affecting the nation. No rhetoric, no spin. I was struck by it when Prescott commented a few weeks ago and the tenor of his concern hasn't changed, as I heard him on the programme. It's refreshing.
Stephen Windross
Skinningrove, Cleveland

If human activity is causing global warming then it is because there are too many humans, and the problem is getting worse. The traditional solution has been to have a war to cut the numbers, maybe John Prescott can come up with a better idea.

Just the sort of nonsense that we now expect from Panorama! Where were you 7 years ago when the country was gripped by water shortages after virtually no rain for three years. As usual Prescott jumping on any convenient passing bandwagon; and a motley collection of Labour voting 'experts' (I prefer the phrase 'intelligent idiots') who just want to push their own agenda. There is no evidence of global warming apart from the gradual melting of the polar ice-caps - and this is a cyclicle phenomenon. In ten years from now we will be having colder winters than usual - what will Panorama be reporting then?, how about the billions of pounds needed to dig up, lag and relay all the water pipes.
A Dunkerton

Land that once acted like a sponge and held water is now covered with a water proof surface and drains

John Tompkins, Leicester
Building on flood plains has the obvious effect that when the water rises homes get flooded, but a far more important effect is that land that once acted like a sponge and held water is now covered with a water proof surface and drains. This causes water to run off more quickly, the rivers can't cope and floods occur. Our rivers are not being dredged regularly, the dredging that used to be carried out kept the rivers at a reasonable depth. It is a simple equation deeper rivers = more rain needed to fill them. Areas of the River Soar in Leicester are less than six inches deep where earlier this century the Lifeboat "Leicester" bound for the East coast once did capsize demonstrations. Now you could not float a canoe. If the ice caps melt, the water level will drop as the majority of ice is already in the water and water frozen occupies more space than liquid water, ask anyone who has boiled a large panful of ice and only got enough water for one cup of tea. The North Pole is a giant iceberg with at least 80% of its mass under water. Much of the ice around Antarctica is already in the water as pack ice or icebergs. Every iceberg will occupy less space melted than it does frozen. The politicians are using bandwagons to achieve their aims without reference to the real causes.
John Tompkins

I would like to say that the flooding we have had is due to rivers bursting their banks not the sea rising. I live on Portsea Island, we had no flooding here.
Stuart Townsley

Global warming is clearly happening but have the influences of the Atlantic oscilation on our climate been ruled out in the present 'abnormal' weather and what about land drainage practices and their contribution to the recent/present flooding?
Tom McOwat
Drefach Velindre

The present problems are not a surprise! I have been expecting them. I have 2 degrees in Environmental Science, and specialised in Hydrology, yet cannot find a job, even though I have known the problems for years and solutions!!! WHY!!!
Stephen Harrison

Climate has never been static. At one time most of what is now the British Isles was under permanent ice cover. Before that there were rainforests (today's coal deposits), deserts (sandstone rocks) and large seas (limestone). The forces of natural climatic change remain unconquerable.
P D Baker

Clearly thousands of houses are going to be flooded more frequently than anyone would like. It is important that such houses are decorated and furnished in a way similar to the Essex man who has tiled floors, flood drains and electric wiring running from the ceiling to high-level points. Surely insurance companies could then extend cover for structural damage rather than redecorating/refurnishing.

The relationship between man made pollution and global warning has not been scientifically established and Panorama did not make this clear. Please explain why America, Japan and Australia have no intention of meeting Kyoto agreement. The programme had too much environmentalist opinion and insufficient scientific objectivity.

An otherwise very worthwhile programme spoiled by allowing a politician (Mr Prescott) to have one of the closing slots. By doing this you give them a credibility they far from deserve "...and an alarm call to the nation..." I believe he said. Could this be the same "nation" that has, for the past thirty and more years, been telling Mr Prescott and the whole gathering of vote-catching, self-serving politicians that have bumbled their way through years of successive near environmental calamities, just what the consequences of our/their actions would be?

An alarm call to the nation? Mr Prescott the alarm went off thirty years ago

Peter Webb, Wolverhampton
What does he think Rachel Carson was trying to put across, or Armand and Michaela Dennis, or Jaques Cousteau, or David Attenborough, or Gerald Durrel..... or Peter Webb? Never heard of me, huh? Of course he hasn't! I'm one of those great unwashed that even though I protested at conferences and outside international political gatherings found I had no voice! I'm considered, by the majority of politicians to be of no account and have no opinion worthwhile considering. If that's so, then how come I (we) have got it right, been proved to be perspicacious in the one thing we would all rather have been wrong about? An alarm call to the nation? Mr Prescott the alarm went off thirty years ago.....unlike myself and many others you, and the massive majority of politicians before you, overslept it.
Peter Webb

Another well presented programme, but I was disappointed that there was no mention of loss of livestock or the effect on British Food production in the relevant areas. The climate is indeed changing, when was it ever stable?
T Wright

The programme was an eye opener for the general public who may dismiss the notion of global warming. Global warming is a factor produced by each individual's needs that are placed upon the Earth. If we carry on being demanding then eventually something has to give, and the climate is one of those things. Perhaps instead of people blaming others we all ought to take stock of our daily living and attitudes and see if they need changing. As for local councils, they are aware of climate change and should rethink about the planning permission they allow. Here the Government can not escape blame as surely they talk to and discuss policies down at local level too?
Pauline Lane B.Sc

For 30 years, I have watched heavy rains in the Snowdonia hills hit Shrewsbury and beyond. Do you believe that reducing cars on roads will be of ANY help in preventing flooding (should this even be possible with closing of cottage hospitals and village schools etc)
Barbara James
Bangor, N.Wales

If they want to build on the flood plain why don't thay make it LAW that the houses are built on stilts. This would stop most of the water getting inside

19,000 international scientists have now signed a petition condemning the Kyoto Protocol on global warming as they do not believe in global warming.

'Global warming' is the modern day bogeyman which the government can use to browbeat people into accepting their desired policies

P Duddy, Glasgow
The USA & UK have ignored the advice of many scientists who have shown, for example, that the intestinal gases produced by termites have contributed 10 times as much so-called greenhouse gas to the atmsophere as cars have. Unfortunately, logic has been thrown out of the window here. 'Global warming' is the modern day bogeyman which the government can use to browbeat people into accepting their desired policies. Check out sites ( and scientists ) who are prepared to offer REAL debate on this isue, e.g. Sovereignty International website.

What amazes me is when parts of Scotland flood nearly every year not only in winter no one knows anything about it, but when it is a small part of is BRITAIN is underwater!!! The whole world is getting flooded the person who said they hadn't seen it on the news is wrong. Miles of some African & Indian places were flooded last year, whole villages washed away. Also some bits of the French Spanish Border when a lump of mountain was washed down. It is nothing to do with emissions from vehicles it is purely evolution, why are we suddenly trying to stop it instead of live with it. Canute never had any success.

Well done! As a member of the RTPI, working for a mid-Norfolk planning authority, I'm sure members of the profession would be greatly relieved by the honesty of the presentation. The advice set out in planning policy guidance notes and government circulars over the last 2 years have been clear and explicit about the implications of global warming. The overall approach of sustainable development and whole settlement strategies is a holistic approach advocated by the Norfolk Structure Plan and developed by individual district/borough planning authorities within the county. If you were to approach the RTPI in Portland Place, then it may be possible to develop an in-depth study on how planning authorities within a specific region are already addressing the issues on a detailed level, both in policy terms and in the day to day decisions facing development control officers. After a career break with four children I had considered doing a PGCE, but on reflection, felt I could be more effective staying in the profession.
Wendy Hague
Downham Market

A timely programme, and yet I fear that in placing emphasis on the limited effect that immediate reduction of greenhouse gasses will have on global warming you will underwrite many people's (including politicians) inaction. I do not dispute that damage has been done, and that change now will not turn things around in the next 10 to 20 years. But the danger is that people will be fatalistic following your programme and the problem will be exacerbated by complacent polluters. In changing our habits we are not 'King Canutes'.
Vince Jones

The current levels of flooding are not unknown to this country. The fact that the climate has changed over the last millennium is irrefutable and there are several historical texts available which support this. There is also evidence from tree rings that the climate approached that of the current Mediterranean climate. Apparently, during the years 1100 - 1350, grapes were being grown as far north as Shetland and Norway. Surely from the eras of William Wallace (c 13C) there is available documentation as to land area that was available then, versus the land that is available today? That could give us invaluable information as to what to expect from the current increase in global temperatures although the predictions to be made from such information is difficult to prove in what is a very complex model.
Callum J Gourlay

Surely, the underlying cause of pollution and the Greenhouse Effect is the sheer volume of people contributing to it

Richard Cobbold, Plymouth
The damage we have inflicted to the planet in the relatively short time that we have been around is massive and irreversible, and yes we can all do our bit to help, but if we all weren't here polluting Earth in the first place then the problem wouldn't have arisen. Surely, the underlying cause of pollution and the Greenhouse Effect is the sheer volume of people contributing to it. Why then don't we hear about the worlds exponentially increasing population as a contributing factor so that people may sit back and think, "maybe two children in our family is enough" and so we don't encourage large families in this day and age and certainly don't applaud them.
Richard Cobbold

I am a horticulturist and environmentalist and have been close to the various bodies in government cycles. I have been saddened to see that the environment has not been given the importance that is desperately needed. There is a wealth of environmental technology and expertise available in this country that is not being given the financial help required to become world leaders in what will be the prime industry of the 21st century. It is also worrying to see that the advisory committees advising government contain a majority of people from the industries that are causing the very problems. i.e. the major oil companies etc. At a recent steering committee meeting at JEMU's offices I was accused as being a 'greenie' by the chairman of the Environmental Industries Commission for voicing the very concerns that your programme depicted.
Duncan Brown

One of the main causes of coastal erosion, loss of sea defences, dunes, salt marsh and soft cliff defences is caused through offshore aggregate dredging. Most of this is sold to Europe where such exploitation is banned because of the erosion it causes. I am one of 93 bungalow losers at Hemsby in Norfolk, the loss of which resulted following dredging off the coastline. No compensation is given and no insurance is possible, only total loss. This vandalism must be stopped; instead it is ecalating.
Pat Gowen, North Sea Action Group
Norwich, Norfolk

Panorama was one sided and alarmist. Only the flood warden talking to Mr. Prescott in her flooded house made the point that it is by no means certain that the recent floods are due to global warming and even if they were, removing all the transport from Britain's roads and railways wouldn't make the slightest difference. In York for instance the recent flood levels were exceeded by a flood recorded in 1624 - there was no global warming then, could it not be that we are witnessing a normal cyclical event in UK weather patterns? Please let us have a more balanced discussion on Panorama.
Peter Jackson

Please tell me why the makers of this programme didn't speak to the Met Office to find out whether the recent floods were unprecedented events? The total lack of science in the programme was scary. Another journalistic all time low for the once respectable BBC.
D. Shaylor

The common theme seems to be using our knowledge of technology to prevent/reduce flooding. What about using nature itself and putting right the systematic deforestation of our country?

Increasing the lag time of a drainage basin system is preferrable to creating huge artificial and potentially damaging stores of water

Joanne Eilbeck, Warrington
As all of the scientists will know, planting trees intercepts rainfall and so reduces the speed at which water reaches the ground and runs off into the rivers. Additionally more planting will in turn help to regulate the amount of groundwater and soil moisture content, due to plant absorption of water so slowing down the saturation of the soil. Surely increasing the lag time of a drainage basin system is preferrable to creating huge artificial and potentially damaging stores of water ie York, Mersham etc. No-one seems to be making a connection either with the fact that plants need CO2 to photosynthesise therefore trees help the equilibrium of the globe, look at the reduction of the Amazon rainforest, and the increase in drought frequency across central Africa. Finally much of the coastline of Britain, in particular the Eastern coastline did not exist prior to the last ice age and is in fact no more than glacial outwash material not bedrock such as exists in the North and West of the British Isles. It will be eroded as is the cycle of weathering and used for future production of rock. The more humans interfere with nature the worse the consequences!
Joanne Eilbeck

Surely flood plains have historically been flooded thousands of times in the past, otherwise they wouldn't be flood plains. I have moved house four times in my life and I have always investigated the potential for flooding before buying. A big deterrent to building on flood plains would arise if insurance companies refuse to insure or raise premiums for flood prone property.
Newton St Cyres, nr Exeter

WHEN (!) I see '2 jags Prescott' changing his ministerial car from a Jaguar to a Ford Fiesta I will accept there is a problem. UNTIL I see the current government do something constructive I will NOT believe there is a problem!!!
Peter Capper
West Sussex

As we develop we must adapt, this has driven forward the human race. These extreme weather patterns are just a part of life. As a pre-log I changed my life, building homes that I live in with increasing energy efficency.
John Galt

Well, proof at last of global warming! Flood plains are being flooded. Land below sea level in danger of being flooded. What more proof could anyone want.
Bogush Man

Your programme made repeated references to defences failing. Most of them did NOT fail - they were exceeded. There is a major difference. I work for the Environment Agency in Flood Defence in the North London catchment and large scale flood plain development is STILL being given planning permission!!
Ian Davis

Greenpeace predicted Climate Change due to our own greed many years ago. Basically no-one cares
Carol Topham
Looe, Cornwall

Why does Mr Prescott think that insurance companies have a duty to cover all properties in the flood areas? The government have shirked their responsibility to protect villages on the east coast on the grounds that it will cost too much to prevent erosion, and they are letting whole villages fall into the sea, so why can't insurance companies take the same attitude and say that certain properties are too costly to insure against flood? Mr Prescott is, yet again, displaying just what hypocrites this government are.

It is unreasonable to demand that insurance companies must offer cover when they know that claims will be certain rather than merely possible

Colin Hodgson, Stoke on Trent
Insurance companies are businesses. If they are forced to insure properties which they know will flood every year, and so require claims to be paid, then the companies must either set premiums so high that they are unaffordable or they must spread the cost across everyone's premium, which means that those at no risk will pay for other people's risk. It may be hard to bear for the property owners who are affected, but circumstances always change and property ownership does not come with a guarantee. Many inner city householders have seen their areas become derelict as people move away, due to economic factors, and property prices have collapsed. Similarly, certain properties may become abandoned as people move away from the flood areas due to the economics of costly repairs or sky high insurance premiums. It is unreasonable to demand that insurance companies must offer cover when they know that claims will be certain rather than merely possible, as is the normal basis of insurance cover.
Colin Hodgson
Stoke on Trent

I was very interested to hear John Prescott's concerns over building development on flood plains and the fact that government must cater for what is happening to the climate. How does he balance this with the fact that in areas like ours, the government department insists on building tens of thousands of homes, giving district councils no choice but to accept their edict, regardless of the fact that the only available land left for such development to council's such as ours lies predominantly on flood level areas?
P J Rickards
Polegate, East Sussex

Having watched this establishment drivel tonight I'm disgusted! Why we should believe anything a politician (i.e. two very polluting jags Prescott) says when it comes to global warming I just don't know! Where was the scientific explanation on this subject? It was all conjecture if that's the right word. Or rubbish. If we'd never had floods like these on record then I would believe global warming was to blame, but we have, even if it was 400 years ago, IT HAS HAPPENED BEFORE, I have absolutely no time for such knee jerk reaction programmes like these and feel my licence money is being used to fuel some arrogant politicians' egotistical policies, and an excuse to raise our taxes even more. I would bet all my worldly possessions on these floods never reoccurring as bad in my lifetime again, that is how sure I am. There was no mention of the wet summer, the high water table before these rains either.
Rob Wilson

Global warming is a natural event, not a man-made phenomenon. The Panorama programme would have you believe that human induced global warming was fact, when it is one of the most widely disputed areas of modern science. The predictions quoted on the programme are from computer models that can in no way match the complexity or beauty of nature. They are a crude tool, even when considering local weather 3 days ahead. What is not widely said is that we had emerged from a recognised little ice age by the start if the 1900's, and that before 1940 was when most of the small temperature increase occurred (while 80% of human produced CO2 (which is only 2% of all CO2 produced each year) occurred after 1940). What we have seen in recent weeks is not the start of chaotic and extreme weather that will plague the UK for the next century, but the direct result of increased development which increases surface run-off when it rains, and of the fad of installing flood defences that just pass the problem to the weakest defences. Why not have a look at where you can find the truth.
Gareth Rogers

I hope that those people who protested for cheap petrol recently took notice of this film

Richard, Kettering
Your programme was quite graphic in demonstrating the sort of problems that the scientific community has been debating for years. It was a shame though, that the link between energy consumption/greenhouse gas production was not made with any force. The longer we delay in tackling this issue, the worse things will be. I hope that those people who protested for cheap petrol recently took notice of this film. Changing our lifestyles to reduce the environmental damage we do may seem drastic, but the alternative is to do nothing and see large parts of Britain disappear. Perhaps the government should have considered raising the fuel duty instead of spinelessly giving in to protesters.

All of the comments about the recent flooding appear to have ignored the fact that this year is a solar sunspot maximum year. In the past this has caused large changes in the earth's climate on a temporary basis, so perhaps we should be looking at this as a possible more immediate reason for the recent bad weather, rather than blaming the global warming phenomena so quickly. If you believed everything in the media then almost all of humanities problems are being blamed on this rather nebulous concept of global warming. As a member of the Institute of Physics I have found some of the comments made in your programme rather alarmist to the general public, and the factual evidence used to support them rather poor. Most of the so called facts appear to have come from Environmentalist quarters who have a vested interest in promoting the global warming theory. No account has been taken of the fact that the earth's climate system is more than likely to be a self stabilising system and that the activity of human pollution is no more than a temporary perturbation from which it will recover.
Keith Bray

I was very interested in the programme on climate change tonight. All the programmes that I have seen over the past few weeks seem to have assumed that global warming is going to make the UK warmer. However I remember a programme which talked about global warming making the UK colder. The theory was that as the climate gets warmer the ice caps melt. This fresh water flowing from the north pole could disrupt the gulf steam. If the gulf stream didn't warm the UK then we would have a climate closer to that of Moscow. Has this theory been disproved or could we preparing for the wrong climate change??
Brian Laffoley

I suspect that natural changes in world climate have been historically much greater than those suggested as a result of CO2 emissions resulting from human activity. What about previous ice ages etc? Anything we can do by reducing carbon emissions etc is trivial.
Clive Rose

A one off event is indicative of what we know already - one off events will happen from time to time

Mark Tonkin, Lewes
How can so called scientists tell us, with a supercilious grin, that an event which as reported in the programme tonight, no one can remember happening before, be taken seriously. Surely a one off event is indicative of what we know already, one off events will happen from time to time. What we do know from history is that the climate warms up and cools down, we do not need Merylyn Mckenzie-Hedger to make spurious assumptions based on non science. There have been so called mini ice ages in almost living memory, there have been scorching hot summers and mild winters. We do nothing but flatter ourselves if we presume to suggest that we, man, can do the slightest thing to have any significant impact on the temperature of the planet. Global warming is, by all probability, a fact resulting from sun spot activity which I venture to suggest is somewhat out of our control. I heard no reference from the 'scientists' to this known influence of our weather, now why would that be do you suppose?
Mark Tonkin
Lewes, Sussex

We have seen the devastation caused by water/floods and we appear to be taking cognisance of the factors. However, the next problem is probably due to high winds in certain areas. This will expose (pardon the pun) the inadequancies of building regulations to roof and tile/slate design and retention.These cause more deaths due to impact of loose roofing/guttering than flooding. John Prescott with all his hot air should be aware of the power of wind.
Tom Roberts

It seems like there is nothing we can do about global warming. We are a species stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand we face climate change which will have a devastating effect on our society, or on the other hand, if we curtail our fossil fuel usage enough to make a difference we risk an economic disaster of a similar magnitude. I Despair!
Jessica Weston

Don't you think it's time that the government put pressure on the car industry to research further and develop electric cars??
Richard White

We are encouraged to cut fuel consumption and use public transport. This seems a practical and perhaps reasonable proposition. What percentage of "damage" is attributable to the very popular "public transport" of air travel. Suggestions as to how people may be educated as to the real cost of their holiday and for business people of their jollies, sorry essential business trips?
Northern UK

Global warming is a fact, and our weather will get worse. This will happen gradually and not all at once. The Panorama programme neglected to look at other factors, of which, volcanic activity is the most likely culprit. Montserrat is still pumping dust into atmosphere and the dust already there from the previous eruption could be the likely cause for our present weather abnormalities. I believe that Global Warning is happening, but I don't want to 'cry wolf,' and neither should the Panorama team.
Andy M

If these people who live on or near the flood plains are asked to pay more in insurance or cannot get insurance then surely the worse the conditions get the more of them will be financially broken, we cannot afford to continually pay out to have our houses repaired. It is my belief that it is not only up to the government to sort this out, it is up to everyone because one day we may be all in the same boat, literally. The annoying thing is that there is technology out there which would solve our problems for example cold fusion is a fairly new technology, car engines that run on water, I do not need go on, there are too many greedy selfish powerfully people out there who only care about how much money they can make.

If the recent floods in the UK are caused by global warming then surely other countries are also affected. Is this the case? If so, why haven't we seen anything reported in the news programmes?
Bob Thompson

This programme showed incredible bias in not making the case for the theory of global warming to be wrong, and just that, a THEORY. I'm a geologist, and like many do not subscribe to the theory of global warming. We, on this side of the fence would say that the recent floods are a one in a one hundred year event, and nothing more than that. It was very wrong of Panorama to screen such a high profile programme with no discussion of the opposite argument.
Adrian Steele

While everyone is talking about reducing emissions, enough LPG is being burned at refineries to run all West-European cars. Not only is LPG more environment-friendly, it is a cheap source of power. Now they burn it as a waste-product and contribute to global warming. When are governments going to wake up? My guess is, that first their own homes will have to be flooded.
Geert Annys
Ostend - Belgium

Where is the proof of global warming? The USA have underwater monitors around the world, these devices have not reported a rise in temperature. When the world flooded 2,000 odd years back I don't think they blamed it on global warming!
Gideon Morley
Ashford, Kent

I enjoyed the programme very much! I wonder how many people in Britain could put their had up and say that they personally had not noticed the increasing exceptional weather each year!!
Justin Palmer

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