Extreme flooding 2024: XR UK’s position - Extinction Rebellion UK

Extreme flooding 2024: XR UK’s position

To look across the flooded fields and towns of our country today is to feel a wave of heartbreak and rage as the frightening extreme weather predictions of scientists from five years ago come true in real time, right in front of our eyes.

More than 1,000 homes across a huge swath of the North, Midlands and South were deluged with sewage-filled water, thousands more lost power, and 300 storm warnings were issued as Storm Henk battered the country.(1) It’s only the latest of the increasingly ferocious and frequent storms that Extinction Rebellion warned in 2018 were on the way as our climate heats up – and which government and media dismissed repeatedly as doom-mongering, hysteria and hyperbole.

From the stories of homes, lives and dreams wrecked by Henk, a series of grim truths are emerging that prove that the authorities and their client media currently have no intention of saving us from the worst impacts of the climate and ecological crisis:

The government is doing nothing to protect us from floods

The number of homes to be protected from future floods by 2027 has been reduced by 40%, from 336,000 to 200,000 – 136,000 less than the government promised in 2020. (2) England’s most important flood defences are so damaged that they are almost useless, with 4,204 of them in a poor or very poor condition in 2022 (3)

And Storm Henk proved that even money and privilege won’t protect you from  climate crisis-driven flooding. Eton School, where the most elite of the elite send their children, was closed for days as sewage-filled floodwater from overwhelmed drains filled the ancient buildings. (4)

Flood-related food shortages are looming

Vital food crops have been wrecked by Henk and a series of previous storms in 2023. Farmer Phil Rowbottom, whose 135 hectare arable farm in Yorkshire has seen double the annual average rainfall since September warns: “There is going to be such a shortage of wheat coming in 2024.” (4)

Flooding is now a major health risk

Medical experts say that flooding, one of the big risks to health and healthcare, has become a major cause of infections including cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases, mental health conditions such as chronic anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and chemical contamination, as extreme weather events become more frequent. (5) & (6)

And there’s no doubt that the health risks from flooding will get worse. Between 2000 and 2015 another 86 million people, especially in the Global South, found themselves living in flood-risk areas, a 24% increase in the proportion of population exposed to floods. Research shows that the flood risk in the UK will grow between now and 2030. (7)

Animals and ecosystems are being killed by floods 

Floods caused by Storm Henk and its dangerous recent predecessors are devastating natural and farmed animal life and ecosystems. Cows are drowning in their fields, sediment and sewage washed into rivers is choking fish and plantlife, and bird and small mammal populations are being decimated by repeated inundations of dirty water. (8)

Flooding will make our homes uninsurable

After paying out £560m for damaged homes, businesses and vehicles after Storms Babet, Ciaran and Debi in 2023, experts warn that UK homeowners will face much higher insurance premiums – and fewer people living on the coast will be able to get insurance at all.  (9)

Still the media refuses to tell us the truth

The billionaire-owned newspapers read by millions – The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph – are reporting on the devastating floods with barely a hint that they are caused by the climate crisis. And they refuse to warn us that flooding dangers will get worse without urgent government action to tackle the emergency. In fact, these supposed sources of information have stepped up their calls for less action from those in power.  (10)

The situation is clear. In fact, the Great Flood of January 2024 has meant that it’s never been clearer.

No-one in authority is coming to save us, or even to warn us that we need to be saved. So we will have to save ourselves by Mending Broken Britain.

How will we do it? By coming together in the streets in 2024 in our hundreds of thousands to stage a decisive moment for a new kind of democracy when we take back the power to decide our futures from an uncaring government and a reckless media. 

By demanding a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate and Ecological Justice that represents all of us and tells those in power what needs to be done to stage a just and fair transition to a future worth living.

By refusing to sit in our homes as the flood waters rise over our doorsteps, waiting in vain for a political and business elite that cares only for its own interests to ride to our rescue.  


Photo: XR Malvern flood action, 05 January 2024.

(1) How Storm Henk and the other UK storms get their names https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-67135325

(2)  Flood protection plans for English homes cut by 40% https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/nov/15/flooding-defence-protection-england-properties-cut-nao

(3)  More than 4,000 English flood defences ‘poor or very poor’, analysis finds https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/oct/30/more-than-4000-english-flood-defences-almost-useless-analysis-finds?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

(4) Eton College forced to close https://news.sky.com/story/eton-college-forced-to-close-after-thames-water-sewers-which-serve-area-around-prestigious-school-flood-13045536#:~:text=Top%20private%20school%20Eton%20College,due%20to%20the%20overwhelmed%20sewers.

(5)   Persistent wet weather taking its toll on UK Farmers https://www.fwi.co.uk/news/persistent-wet-weather-taking-its-toll-on-uk-farmers#:~:text=Farmers%20and%20landowners%20across%20the,and%20Ciaran%20in%20the%20autumn.

(6)   Effect of climate related flooding on health and healthcare worldwide


(7)   Flooding and Health: an overview, UK Health Security Agency


(8) The Global Flood Database  https://global-flood-database.cloudtostreet.ai/#interactive-map

(9)How extreme wet weather can devastate wildlife https://www.rspb.org.uk/whats-happening/news/flood-warning-how-extreme-wet-weather-can-devastate-wildlife

Cows drowned in field close to M1 in Derbyshire https://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/news/weather/derbyshire-floods-cows-drown-in-flooded-field-close-to-m1-in-derbyshire-with-animal-welfare-investigation-launched-4467134

(10) Sodden Britain in the grips of the wettest winter in 130 years


(11)   Analysis: Record Opposition to Climate action by UK’s right-leaning newspapers in 2023

Related topics

climate chaos climate justice Flood flooding

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