‘We Are in Deep, Deep Sh*t’: Climate Experts Shocked at Severity of Floods in Germany and Belgium

Editor’s note: I’m living in Germany quite close to the flooded areas. This summer we had the longest period of very heavy rainfall I ever experienced in my life. The heavy rain just wouldn’t stop for weeks and months.
I cannot repeat it often enough: We are in a state of acute global emergency. Instead of continuing to fantasize about the “Energiewende” and switching to “clean” energy, we have to act like in a state of emergency and stop burning any fossil fuels immediately. This is just the beginning of the age of climate catastrophe and it will become much worse if we don’t act.

This article originally appeared in Common Dreams.


“This is your climate on fossil fuel.”

Climate scientists on Friday were stunned by the intensity of flooding in Germany and Belgium that killed at least 120 people and damaged tens of thousands of homes, with experts saying they did not expect such extreme weather to result from the human-caused climate crisis as rapidly as it has.

More than a dozen records for rainfall were set across Western Europe, including in Cologne, where officials recorded six inches of rainfall in just 24 hours on Wednesday into Thursday morning—nearly double the monthly average for July. The city’s previous record for daily rainfall was only three inches.

“This week’s event is totally untypical for that region,” Dieter Gerten, professor of global change climatology and hydrology at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told The Guardian.

Aerial footage of Ahrweiler in Rhineland Palatinate showed fallen trees, abandoned cars, and indundated roads.

According to the European Severe Weather Database, Reifferscheid saw more than eight inches of rainfall in just nine hours, leading to extreme flash flooding.

“We are still waiting for a definitive toll, but it could be that this flood becomes the most catastrophic our country has ever known.”
—Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo

On Thursday night, officials reported that as many as 1,300 people were still unaccounted for, noting that the high number could be related to power supplies and cell phone networks being disrupted and some areas being difficult for rescue crews to reach.

Gerten expressed shock at the severity of the disaster.

“We seem to be not just above normal but in domains we didn’t expect in terms of spatial extent and the speed it developed,” Gerten said.

Climate scientists have warned for years that the continued extraction of fossil fuels is causing numerous changes in the climate, including extreme heat, drought, and more frequent and heavy rain—which has been linked to the warming of oceans and increased amounts of water evaporating into the air.

“With climate change we do expect all hydro-meteorological extremes to become more extreme. What we have seen in Germany is broadly consistent with this trend,” Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, told The Guardian.

But as the BBC reported, scientists said Friday they “failed to predict the intensity of the German floods” as well as the extreme heat which enveloped the Western United States and Canada in recent weeks, killing hundreds of people.

“The obvious acceleration of the breakdown of our stable climate simply confirms that—when it comes to the climate emergency—we are in deep, deep shit,” Bill McGuire, a professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, told the BBC. 

The effects of the torrential downpour stretched across Western Europe, with officials in Belgium saying Friday at least 23 people were confirmed dead and at least 19 were missing, and experts in the Netherlands and Switzerland expecting more inundation on Friday.

“We are still waiting for a definitive toll, but it could be that this flood becomes the most catastrophic our country has ever known,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Friday.

On social media, progressive organizer Doyle Canning of Oregon, where temperatures reached 116 degrees earlier this month, responded to a video of flash flooding in one German city.

“This is your climate on fossil fuel,” said Canning as she reshared the footage.

The flooding came days after the European Union unveiled a plan to transition away from fossil fuels by 2030 as part of its plan to become carbon-neutral by 2050.

Armin Laschet, the governor of one of Germany’s hardest-hit states and a candidate to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor in the September elections, said the rising death toll and damage to communities across Germany demonstrated that “we need to continue Germany’s path toward climate neutrality even faster.”

7 thoughts on “‘We Are in Deep, Deep Sh*t’: Climate Experts Shocked at Severity of Floods in Germany and Belgium”

  1. In addition to complete cessation of burning fossil fuels, we also need to stop all logging and instead restore all native forests, while limiting families to one child so that this kind of stuff has a chance of working (most terrestrial land on Earth was forest until humans started killing trees, so we need to greatly lower human population in order to have room for the forests). It may be too late as Janet commented, but no one knows for sure and we have to keep trying, there is no other sane or moral alternative.

  2. Climate change is Earth’s answer to industrial civilization. It’s no coincidence that the three big climate disasters of the month are hitting the industrial giants of Europe, Asia, and North America — with massive flooding in Germany and China, and wildfires in the U.S. Nature knows what she’s doing.

  3. We need the industrial/technological civilisation to be dismantled but we have to understand that, if we do that, the way that most people live (even in “developing” nations) will be utterly transformed and it’s extremely doubtful that 8 billion people can be accommodated in that new world. I don’t know how it can be done but I hope it is done.

    1. It’s way beyond that Tony. Without the extreme overabundance of food created by artificial fertilizer, the Earth can “only” support one billion people. In order to have artificial fertilizer, you need industrial society. We therefore have to greatly reduce human population while we wind down industrial living, unless you’re OK with most of the eight billion people on Earth starving to death. Even one billion people is far too many ecologically and for the sake of all other species on Earth and there are far more major reasons to greatly reduce human population, but without this reduction getting rid of industrial society would be impossible (again, without most people starving to death).

  4. I think that the white supremacy nations (Canada, U.S., western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc) thought climate change was only going to affect the “other” countries and are shocked to discover it causing devastating effects to themselves.

    As far as what Jeff says, as the Ehrlichs pointed out many years ago, we will either control our populations or we will experience reduction of the population through disease, disaster, etc. I am so glad I am 67 and sometimes I wish I were older! And I am so grateful I have NO childen or grandchildren.

    1. I’m a fan of Ehrlich too. I remember hearing him on the radio around 1980 and was very impressed. The only thing he did wrong was to attempt to predict when human overpopulation would cause human starvation (it’s been causing non-human starvation for a very long time, which is a far bigger concern). (As they repeated many times in a very good German science fiction series, the universe is an ocean and our knowledge is a mere drop, so predicting when an ecological system is going to collapse because of human overpopulation is foolish.)

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