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European floods: Climate change to blame for extremity of flooding crisis, leaders say

Climate change is responsible for the extremity of the catastrophic floods ravaging parts of Europe, political leaders on the continent have said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has joined senior figures from the affected countries in pinning the devastating flooding on the climate crisis after the death toll in Germany and Belgium topped 100.

“It is the intensity and the length of the events that science tells us this is a clear indication of climate change and that this is something that really, really shows the urgency to act,” said Ms von der Leyen.

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Ursula von der Leyen has called for urgent action on climate change

Europe’s flooding crisis – follow live updates

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also said the floods, which have been most deadly in Germany, were evidence that more needed to be done to combat climate change.

He expressed his shock at the extent of the disaster in western Germany as he addressed victims on Friday.

“Only if we take up the fight against climate change decisively, will we be able to keep extreme weather conditions such as we are experiencing now in check,” he said.

Flood damage in Schuld
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Flood damage in Schuld

It comes after Germany’s environment minister, Svenja Schulze, declared: “Climate change has arrived in Germany.”

She tweeted: “These events show the force with which the consequences of climate change can affect us all, and how important it is to prepare even better for such extreme weather events in the future.”

And the country’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, has unambiguously called “this extreme weather” a “consequence of climate change”.

Experts say that climate change is already increasing the frequency of extreme weather events and the trend is set to continue.

Through the emerging area of attribution science, many extreme events have retrospectively been shown to have been made worse by global warming.

Dr Liz Stephens, associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at Reading University, called the flooding “a sobering demonstration of how even the most developed countries are not prepared for the impacts of climate change.”

“The floods in London earlier this week provide a warning that we are not immune to these kinds of flood impacts in the UK and should learn our own lessons from this disaster.”

Politicians commenting on this week’s flooding have been notably bold in drawing the link with climate change.

Armin Laschet, premier of one of the worst affected German states, North Rhine-Westphalia, warned: “We will be faced with such events over and over, and that means we need to speed up climate protection measures, on European, federal and global levels, because climate change isn’t confined to one state.”

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Caravan floats down Dutch river

Whilst Germany has been the worst hit so far, other countries have been badly affected.

In Belgium, where 14 deaths have been reported, the authorities have warned people living in the south and east to avoid all travel.

The heavy rainfall, which has been described as unprecedented by experts, has also extended into France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, while parts of Switzerland are on alert.

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What is behind flash flooding in Europe?

Sky News has launched the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.

The Daily Climate Show is broadcast at 6.30pm and 9.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

Hosted by Anna Jones, it follows Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.

The show also highlights solutions to the crisis and how small changes can make a big difference.


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