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Venice floods make climate change denial indefensible

As record breaking floods and fires imperil many areas on the globe, politicians can no longer in good conscience ignore climate change. So, it’s a good thing some of them don’t have consciences.

Venice, a Unesco world heritage site, has been declared a state of emergency as it experiences its worst series of high tides since 1872.

Whilst in most places rising tides generally herald that it’s time to back up the beach kit and head home, for the maritime city of Venice a few extra inches of water can be catastrophic. For the past few weeks Venetians have been battling the worst flooding in nearly 150 years, and they’ve just this morning (18th Nov) been hit with a third major incident of encroaching tides.

St Mark’s Square, the city’s main quarter and a central tourist attraction, has been officially closed. ‘Maximum attention for today’s tide’ tweeted the city’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro, who has stated that saltwater damage to the city’s restaurants, shops, galleries, and homes has so far not only promised reconstruction costs in excess of €1bn, but threatens the city’s artworks, literature, and countless cultural artefacts of value. ‘These are the effects of climate change’ he continues in a Twitter post.

All this comes, ironically, after the Veneto region (which includes Venice) rejected a plan to combat the climate crisis in the 2020 budget. Politicians from the council’s majority right-wing parties – The League, Brothers of Italy, and Forza Italia – voted down amendments proposed by the centre-left democratic party reportedly minutes before the council’s chambers in the Grand Canal, Venice, were flooded. These amendments included measures to find renewable energy sources, replace diesel buses, and reduce plastic use in retail and supermarkets.

Andrea Zanoni, the Democratic Party’s deputy chairman of the council’s environment committee, shared a photo of the flooded offices on Facebook:

Zanoni took particular aim at Luca Zaia, the Veneto president and League politician, for presenting a budget that contained ‘no concrete plan to tackle climate change’.
Arguing against implementing fairly straightforward carbon emission cutting emissions whilst sitting under 1.54 meters of water undermines any claim towards climate ignorance these politicians might have hoped to make, and essentially forces them into a position where they must admit their self-interest.

‘We thought it would be more harmful to cut employment rates’ is not only a sham designed to avoid restructuring employment in line with the Paris Agreement, but now directly contends with evidence that Venice will be underwater within a century according to a 2017 report by the Italian National Agency for New Technologies.

At the same time Venice fills with water, the NSW coast in Australia is being ravaged by its earliest and most severe fire season since records began. Even for modern Australian political discourse, which has always veered towards the alarmingly ignorant (I say this as an Australian), the responses from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy PM Michael McCormack have been jarring.

‘We’ve had fires in Australia since time began!’ McCormack told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) through his gas mask as the smoke billowed around his temples.

The comments were made last Monday as Australia woke to the news that the catastrophic fire emergency it was facing, threatening home on much of the east coast, had already taken three lives. And all this before summer has even begun.

Queensland has been battling its fire season since September – a mere month since winter ended.

McCormack’s reaction to people having the audacity to link bushfire season gradually getting earlier every year to climate change was to call them ‘pure, enlightened and woke capital-city greenies’ on breakfast radio.

This is the same government who continues to support the construction of more coal mines, refuses to switch any sectors to renewable energy, and maintains Australia as the third biggest exporter of fossil fuels. But yea, the fires are definitely unrelated.

The more politicians think they can get away with climate change denial whilst the physical effects of the disaster can be seen and felt, the more they reveal the deliberate nature of their harmful policy making. The fact that voters who keep putting these politicians in power might have to evacuate their homes or wade through what used to be their streets to realise the necessity of environmental policy is at best ironic, and at worst, tragic.


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