Change Alley

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Madeira

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Madeira Waves

I don’t know the Portugese for “climate change” or “global warming”, but here on the holiday island of Madeira I don’t need to, because the English terms are in constant use by locals and visitors alike. Freak weather here and on the Portugese mainland has been the main topic of conversation over the past week. High winds and torrential rain caused chaos for days. Last Sunday’s annual flower festival in Funchal was rained off and postponed for a day, the first time in living memory that’s happened. Someone must have said some heavy duty prayers, because the rains held off long enough for the procession to go ahead under ominous skies before the rain started again with a vengeance. The airport was closed, forcing inbound planes full of holidaymakers to return to the UK. The cable cars were shut, cellars were flooded, sand was stripped off beaches by mountainous waves, operations were halted at the hospital because the floors were awash. Roads were closed in the interior because of mudslides and fallen trees.

The Portugese are one of the few peoples in the world who still seem to like the Brits. Perhaps they’ve picked up the habit of moaning about the weather from us, or perhaps it’s just the result of living on a chunk of volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic. Be that as it may, everybody has been blaming the storms on climate change. Fair comment, you might think, but if you try and open the discussion out a bit it’s obvious that there’s very little understanding of how “climate change” and/or “global warming” might cause storms like these.

You might say that to get these issues into the public domain to such an extent is a consciousness-raising triumph. On the other hand, if the issues aren’t understood, what use are they? They just become conversation fodder, like cricket or the exchange rate.

I blame Al Gore.

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Written by Pete Smith

April 13, 2008 at 5:03 pm

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