George Monbiot article

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George Monbiot published a piece, in The Guardian, recently about flooding and land-use:

“We all know what’s gone wrong, or we think we do: not enough spending on flood defences. It’s true that the government’s cuts have exposed thousands of homes to greater risk, and that the cuts will become more dangerous as climate change kicks in. But too little public spending is a small part of the problem. It is dwarfed by another factor, which has been overlooked in discussions in the media and statements by the government: too much public spending.

Vast amounts of public money, running into billions, are spent every year on policies that make devastating floods inevitable. This is the story that has not been told by the papers or the broadcasters, a story of such destructive perversity that the Guardian has given me twice the usual space today in which to explain it…” read more here

David Mount commented:

“Dear George

As one strand of my work I act as convenor of the Upland Hydrology Group. The Group brings together individuals and organisations that have an interest in the management of the uplands, and one of our goals is to disseminate reliable and evidence-based advice to inform both practitioners and policy-makers.

Your article dealing with (upland) land use and flood risk was very interesting.  I think however in one critical way you have misrepresented the situation.  While it has been shown that tree-planting, the creation of wetlands, the restoration of moorlands etc. can have a significant impact on flooding in catchments of up to 10km2, this has not been demonstrated at a larger scale, You seem to have missed a key phrase in the abstract of the reference you draw on (Impacts of upland land management on flood risk – FRMRC Research Report UR16):

“Results indicate that careful placement of such interventions can significantly reduce the magnitude of peak runoff at the field and small catchment scale

I drafted the UHG note “Runoff and the Uplands” in the light of extensive discussions amongst the our membership a couple of years ago.  I hope it is short enough and clear enough to be accessible to all interested parties, including the politicians mentioned in your piece.

David Mount”