03 Jun 2024, 13:19
Edgar Meza Benjamin Wehrmann

Mass flooding in southern Germany prompts calls for better climate adaptation and civil protection

Clean Energy Wire / Augsburger Allgemeine

Catastrophic flooding following heavy and long-lasting rainfall in southern Germany over the first weekend in June has led to calls for increased funding for disaster protectionand better adaptation to climate change. "It is becoming increasingly clear that we need to protect ourselves better against the consequences of the climate crisis," said environment minister Steffi Lemke. In Germany and around the world, heavy rainfall and flooding "are becoming more frequent and more severe," she added. Strong dykes and well-equipped disaster protection was needed to minimise the damage. Heavy rain in the states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg caused flooding and inundation, leading to large-scale damages and difficult rescue work for relief forces. Gerda Hasselfeldt, president of the German Red Cross (DRK), said an "epochal change" (Zeitenwende) to ensure better funding for disaster relief was necessary, newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung reported. She added that the recent flooding underscored "the importance of strong civil protection in Germany." Community leaders are also calling for changes in the agricultural use of land. Dialogue with farm operators on the better use of agricultural land is necessary, said Hans-Peter Mayer, director of the Bavarian Association of Municipalities. “They also have to make their contribution." The cultivation of fields are among the measures that can protect from heavy rain and flooding, he added, noting that corn monocultures, for example, hardly absorb any water.

Flooding along the upper Danube River remained critical on Monday (3 June), with emergency evacuations taking place and some people still trapped in their homes. At a visit to affected regions in Bavaria, German chancellor Olaf Scholz stressed that this was not fourth time he visited a region affected by floods this year, which served as a strong reminder for him that “we must not neglect our efforts to halt human-made climate change.”

The increasing incidence of flooding in Germany has led to intense debates about communities located in high-risk areas. In March, reinsurance company Munich Re warned against rebuilding some of the settlements destroyed by flooding in Germany’s Ahr Valley in 2021, saying that such events are expected to reoccur. More recently, in late May, floods in the western Saarland region triggered a debate about mandatory disaster insurance cover in the country to better cushion the financial impact of floods and other natural disasters.

Germany’s National Weather Service (DWD), meanwhile, found that climate change played a large part in recent weather events, after measurements showed that Germany saw its warmest spring since records began. Temperatures on average were more than 3 degrees Celsius higher than during the reference period from 1961 to 1990. “Climate change cannot be overlooked,” said DWD spokesman Uwe Kirsche. This was accompanied by “regionally abundant extreme precipitation events.”

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