Veneto Council Flooded Two Minutes After Rejecting Climate Action, Councilor Says
The historic "acqua alta" that swamped Venice Tuesday night also flooded the Veneto regional council for the first time, just moments after it had apparently rejected measures to address the climate crisis.
The council chamber, which is located on Venice's Grand Canal in the Ferro Fini Palace, began to flood around 10 p.m. Tuesday, CNN reported. At the time, the councilors were discussing the 2020 budget for the northeastern Italian region of Veneto, of which Venice is the capital.
"Ironically, the chamber was flooded two minutes after the majority League, Brothers of Italy, and Forza Italia parties rejected our amendments to tackle climate change," Democratic Party councilor and environment committee deputy chairman Andrea Zanoni wrote in a Facebook post reported by CNN.
The League and Brothers of Italy are far-right parties, and Forza Italia is a center-right party, HuffPost explained.
The rejected amendments included plans to fund renewable energy, replace diesel buses with cleaner and more efficient vehicles, replace high-polluting stoves and tackle plastic pollution, Zanoni said.
Zanoni further said that Veneto regional president and League member Luca Zaia presented a budget "with no concrete actions to combat climate change," CNN reported.
Zanoni joined Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro in blaming climate change for Venice's massive flooding Tuesday, according to HuffPost, though he acknowledged it was one of many factors responsible. The city saw its highest tide in more than 50 years when water levels peaked at more than six feet.
There are no words to express all this #VeniceFloods #ClimateEmergency https://t.co/Kufh6NhPqm— Giovanni Antonelli (@Giovanni Antonelli)1573763552.0
"If the voters of Veneto continue to close their eyes, Zaia's League will bring us all underwater," Zanoni said, according to HuffPost.
Regional council spokesman Alessandro Ovizach confirmed to CNN that the flooding occurred during the 2020 budget discussion, but did not specify which budget items were being addressed at the time.
But council president and League member Roberto Ciambetti disputed Zanoni's depiction of the council's actions on climate.
"Beyond propaganda and deceptive reading, we are voting (for) a regional budget that spent €965 million over the past three years in the fight against air pollution, smog, which is a determining factor in climate change," he said in a statement to CNN. "To say that we do nothing is a lie."
Ciambetti did acknowledge the flooding, and posted videos of it on his Facebook page.
"Never had such a situation occurred here (at the Council)," he told local paper Giornale di Vicenza, according to CNN.
The Italian government declared a state of emergency Thursday to help Venice recover, NPR reported.
The flooding has also continued after Tuesday, though at lower levels. On Thursday, the high water mark came to three feet, eight inches, and rain is expected to bring more flooding to the city.
"It hurts to see the city so damaged, its artistic heritage compromised, its commercial activities on its knees," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, according to NPR.
Flooding damaged almost a third of the city's raised walkways, destroyed hundreds of books in the Acqua Alta Library and filled the crypt of St. Mark's Basilica, causing major damage. The Teatro La Fenice opera house was also damaged, The Guardian reported.
#AquaAltaVenezia Ecco la situazione marciana dopo l'eccezionale marea del 12 novembre scorso. Venticinque cm d'acqu… https://t.co/AVvQJzBDoQ— Biblioteca Marciana (@Biblioteca Marciana)1573719222.0
"An apocalypse happened," Antonella Rossi, who owns a handmade jewelry store on St. Mark's Square, told The Guardian. "We haven't seen anything like this in 55 years. The water has destroyed everything, and I will have to redo so much – work that took a lifetime was wrecked in seconds."
BBC News meteorologist Nikki Berry explained how the climate crisis contributed to the historic flooding. While it is difficult to attribute any one extreme weather event to climate change, five of Venice's 10 highest tides took place in the last 20 years. Since Venice is sinking, it is especially susceptible to sea level rise.
The storm surge that contributed to the flooding also shows the fingerprints of climate change, Berry explained:
The weather patterns that have caused the Adriatic storm surge have been driven by a strong meridional (waving) jet stream across the northern hemisphere and this has fed a conveyor belt of low pressure systems into the central Mediterranean.
One of the possible effects of a changing climate is that the jet stream will be more frequently meridional and blocked weather patterns such as these will also become more frequent. If this happens, there is a greater likelihood that these events will combine with astronomical spring tides and hence increase the chance of flooding in Venice.
Conte said the government would work to "accelerate" construction on the long-delayed Mose project, designed to protect Venice from flooding using a series of barriers, according to BBC News.
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'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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