A catastrophe at election time and fouls in the fight for the sovereignty of interpretation

Change politics immediately because of something like this? Symbol image: hermann traub on pixabay (public domain)

How the political class deals with the record flood with 159 dead and why a meteorologist of the german weather service "not amused" the reporting by bild is not intended to

At least 159 people lost their lives in the floods in north rhine-westphalia and rhineland-palatinate, and thousands lost their entire households. Statistically, voters from all bundestag parties were affected. The question of whether such extreme weather events are likely to occur more frequently in the future due to man-made climate change is also on the minds of voters who have not been personally affected so far.

The cdu candidate for chancellor, armin laschet, is now embarrassed that a camera was close by when he celebrated during a speech by german president frank-walter steinmeier (spd) in the disaster area – and as minister president of the affected state of north rhine-westphalia, no less. The greens are accused by the springer press and new-right blogs of exploiting the disaster for their election campaign – finally the suv faction can turn the populism accusation around!

Several top politicians were on the scene, but probably not all with the same motivation. German chancellor angela merkel (cdu) also appeared authentic in her consternation by not running for another term in office – and rhineland-palatinate’s minister president malu dreyer (spd) by the fact that she had just been re-elected and had nevertheless traveled to the disaster area, although she suffers from multiple sclerosis and is dependent on walking aids.

However, the parties of the two women have to put up with criticism after years of government responsibility in the federal government and merkel after almost 16 years of chancellorship. Her possible successor laschet is considered by the green youth to be a "coal king of nrw", with whom the mother party should under no circumstances form a coalition. All this makes the sovereignty of interpretation over weather and climate after this catastrophe so important during election campaigns.

"The impacts become more frequent"

Those who in recent years have contributed politically or journalistically to slowing down the energy and transport turnaround can be reared insofar as climate scientists and meteorologists do not hold them directly responsible for the deaths of the current catastrophe. The tenor: attributing individual events to climate change is difficult – according to prof. Mojib latif they can "always be dismissed as weather" – trend toward more extreme weather events in connection with climate change is clearly discernible.

"Not amused" was the meteorologist andreas friedrich from the german weather service image, which had tried to create a kind of expert controversy. The sheet had him after a longer conversation "selectively quoted", friedrich told reporters on monday telepolis. By the subheading "dwd expert: ‘such a regional storm is a single event, that is weather. The claim that climate change is to blame is so untenable’", a wrong impression had been created. The quotation had not been wrong but tendentious.

He had made it clear in the interview that the frequency of heavy rainfall events in germany had increased over the last 20 years. "The impacts become more frequent", emphasized friedrich. This shows the data situation – and it can be led back on the one hand on the already existing climatic warming. In addition, the jet stream has weakened in recent years. The strong wind band in about ten kilometers height transports thereby also low-prere areas as "bernd" slower. As a result, coarser amounts of rain have been dumped over one area, while other areas are experiencing water shortages.

The slowdown of the jet stream is again explained by the knowledge platform earth and environment of the helmholtz center potsdam by the fact that the arctic is warming up faster than the rest of the world in the course of climate change: "what waves the high wind bands make depends entirely on how pronounced the temperature differences between the aquator and the arctic are."

Reappraisal of the last days

All this does not sound like a clean bill of health for further braking in the matter of climate protection. But the wrong decisions of the last days are now also part of the reappraisal. In the case of the current flood disaster, according to friedrich, the german weather service was not at all surprised by the amount of rainfall. A storm pre-information had been ied on monday last week.

"The disaster control centers receive the weather warnings from us as authorities for their respective municipalities and counties and then deploy their crisis teams. There it is decided whether, for example, to evacuate. The flood control centers with the hydrologists must also be brought on board, who then calculate the levels for the rivers", friedrich said sunday in an interview with the redaktionsnetzwerk deutschland.

The head of the federal office for civil protection and disaster assistance (bbk), armin schuster, confirmed on sunday evening in the "heute journal" of the german television channel "die welt" that the weather had not yet been forecast zdf the quality of the dwd’s warnings, but also swore his agency against criticism. "Our warning infrastructure has worked in the federal government", the former cdu politician and trained police officer emphasized. The problem is that it is often not possible to say half an hour beforehand which place will be hit with which amount of rain.

Another problem seems to have been that the people in the endangered areas were warned mainly via apps, since sirens are not available everywhere. However, older people in particular, who are less able to get to safety quickly in an emergency, do not necessarily use apps. "We have sent out 150 warnings through our apps, through the media", schuster said, pointing out that the bbk’s nina warning app has a total of nine million users. He could not yet say where the population had been warned by sirens. But one thing is certain: sirens will probably be needed again more than 76 years after the last war.

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