Scientists have contradicted a minister’s claim that last weekend’s flooding in Cumbria was unprecedented and linked to climate change.
They say that there have been 34 extreme floods there in the past 300 years and that lives had been put at risk by “grossly underestimating” the risk of floods and failing to consider evidence from records.
Liz Truss, the environment secretary, told MPs on Monday that Cumbria had experienced an “unprecedented weather event” that was “consistent with climate change trends”.
Dr Tom Spencer, a reader in coastal ecology and geomorphology at the University of Cambridge, said that analysis of deposits left by floods in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries showed they were the “biggest events”. These floods happened long before the rise in manmade emissions, undermining the claim that last weekend’s floods were linked to climate change. He said that the government relied too heavily on records dating back only 40 years.