Ingham’s Eye View: Flooding is terrible, but I don’t believe global warming caused it

The full River Calder at Brearley, Mytholmroyd, after heavy rain.
The full River Calder at Brearley, Mytholmroyd, after heavy rain.

After all I have written in this newspaper about renewable sources of energy, some may think I ought to feel guilty about getting a wind turbine for my 80th birthday.

It – or more accurately a German solar-powered model - was presented to me by Michael Eyre, chairman of the British Franchise Association, who lives up Mytholm Steeps, on my resignation after 18 years as its president.

He did so to enable me to show to anybody caring to listen an example of something that is utterly useless.

I never feel guilty warning people about wasting their money. Blackshaw Head will no doubt take due note as people try to flog them shares in a communal wind turbine.

Barbara Green has, of course, known for years that there is something wrong with me – notably that I do not feel in the least guilty about “betraying” the non-existent socialist land of my fathers. She seems to think that every public asset should be publicly owned.

The logic of her position is that every farm, market garden, grocery and supermarket would be collectivised, nationalised or otherwise confiscated. The guaranteed outcome would be the same empty shelves in Hebden Bridge that Margaret Thatcher encountered in a Moscow supermarket in 1987.

All she could buy, in proclaiming the triumph of capitalism over communism, was a tin of sardines for Wilberforce, the No 10 cat.

It will pain a lot of the idealists who now inhabit Hebden Bridge and Upper Calder Valley that I am almost chronically incapable of feeling guilt for the past. I do not go about moaning and groaning about our imperial history.

Undoubtedly, some dreadful things occurred. There are bad apples in every barrel. But by colonial standards our barrel was a lot more wholesome than most. You could not have transformed a rotten-to-the-core empire into today’s Commonwealth.

Similarly, I feel no guilt about the bombing of Dresden any more than I do about the sinking of the Belgrano. Instead, I regret their necessity, which is different.

This brings me to the recent floods which seem to have been the worst in spite of all the preventative work since those in September 1946 – and perhaps even worse than that awful inundation. The River Hebden was just lapping over the footbridge from Pitt Street into the HBGS (now Riverside) playground as I finished my paper round for Mrs Jones, the newsagent, in Market Street.

Afterwards my brother and I were on organ pumping duty at Hope Baptist Church for marriages, funerals, anniversaries and The Messiah for nearly a year after the floodwaters knocked out the electric motor. We had to be reinforced by some stout men and true for the Hallelujah Chorus.

Four years later as a reporter on this newspaper, I was still sweeping up the dust from the mud left behind by the flood in the old Ebenezer Baptist Chapel in Market Street.

My sympathies go to all whose lives were recently invaded, soaked and soiled up and down the valley.

There will be those who say I should feel guilty about reputedly a month’s rain falling in 24 hours since this is what we can increasingly expect because of global warming. I do not believe a word of it.

I fear the grim truth is that Upper Calder Valley will always be susceptible to flooding in extreme weather because the Calder is ultimately the only drain in our steep, fast-flowing Pennine valleys. I am sorry to say it, but some things simply cannot be avoided over time.

I know of no evidence that conclusively links whatever global warming there is with catastrophic weather.

This does not stop a lot of doomsdayers trying to prey on our consciences about the recent abject failure of the Rio+20 climate change conference to come up with anything worthwhile.

Instead I welcome it. This is because these CO2-laden jamborees in the world’s watering holes – attended this time by 40,000 environmentalists, 10,000 officials and government representatives from 190 countries - are no longer about saving the planet, assuming it needs saving.

They are about transferring some of your money to the needy of the developing world, though in reality into the Swiss bank accounts of the despots who run so many of the globe’s failed economies.

Well, a lot of hardworking people in upper Calder Valley need whatever they can find to make good the consequences of a natural disaster. They should not feel guilty. They worked for what they have lost. And they will work to repair the damage. Their function is not to gold plate lousy dictators.