As I was saying … not 48 hours after our most recent Ark Valley Voice story on climate change — Europe has seen another devastating example of what this means for humanity. A weather system stalled out by the slowing jet stream positioned itself over central Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and parts of the Netherlands. It sat there for more than 72 hours. It delivered a year’s worth of rain in a single storm. More rain is forecast.
The human toll in death and loss, and the economic disaster it has delivered to so many of our NATO allies is indescribable. It comes only a year after last summer’s gigantic heat dome over the normally temperate continent, which killed hundreds, even while the COVID-19 pandemic raged.
More than 100 are confirmed dead, at least 1,500 are missing, and the death toll is rising. This is the same sort of raging system that stalled for days in 2013 over the northern Front Range foothills of the Rocky Mountains — torrential rainfall amounts that caused similar suffering, economic and environmental loss. That same year, a similar system stalled over Eastern Europe, inundating river communities in Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and eastern Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was on a visit to Washington D.C., meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and in shocked comments pledged that everything would be done to find those still missing, adding, “’Heavy rain and flooding’ doesn’t capture what happened.”
I know this area of Germany where the rain came down, the waters rose, people died, animals drowned, and livelihoods have been wiped out. I lived just south of the devastated area, in the German Rhineland Palatinate while my husband served in the military.
I know the centuries-old brick and timber houses, the narrow streets. I know that most every town of any size, and hundreds of villages, are situated on a waterway.
This storm turned creeks into rivers, and rivers became vast, expanding expanses of rushing water, mud and debris, that swallowed town squares and shops, hostels, schools, and churches, automobiles, and whole trains. The rising flood stacked them like matchsticks, disintegrating the land beneath the homes and sweeping away evidence of domestic lives.
This video (above) documents flooding in several areas of west central Germany as days of rainfall culminated in the most devastating flooding in Europe in centuries.
There is a maxim that you can’t stop water from going where it wants to.
If you think this is normal in temperate Europe, you don’t know Europe. This disaster is the counterpoint to this reality: climate change is real and it is now, and its impacts are human and economic. We can stop it – but only if we decide to — and only if the world works together.
The Paris Accord, the agreement signed by 192 countries to try to stem the rising CO2 rates with the hope of moderating rapid climate change, is taking on new meaning. While its naysayers cling to their unwarranted skepticism, the signs are too numerous, too serious, too terrifying to ignore. Now for our European neighbors, as massive flooding is added to Europe’s recent heatwaves, major droughts, falling water tables, and winters that no longer offer lower temperatures to manage insects or stave off tropical diseases, the time has come to stop denying the obvious.
The drama of climate change might make for startling images, but the real drama is what awaits us at the dawn of the year 2100 — if we do nothing. I won’t be there to see that – but my grandchildren will. I hope to God that they can say they are proud of what we did.
Featured image: Damaged houses are seen at the Ahr river in Insul, Western Germany, Thursday, July 15, 2021. Due to heavy rainfalls the Ahr river dramatically went over the banks the evening before. More than 200 people have died and more than 1,000 people remain missing in Germany after heavy flooding turned streams and streets into raging torrents, sweeping away cars and causing some buildings to collapse. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)