RUSH hour cars were replaced by rowing boats in Oxford’s flooded Abingdon Road yesterday, as people staged a flotilla to demand a discussion about climate change.
The flash flooding mob that congregated outside the Duke of Monmouth pub had been organised by resident Jamie Clarke, who is also executive director of the Cowley-based climate change organisation Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN).
Mr Clarke, 38, who lives on a narrowboat in Weirs Lane, explained: “The gathering is simply local people simply asking: ‘Why, when flooding is all over the news, isn't the issue of climate change too?’”
The father-of-two, whose children attend the local St Ebbe’s Primary, added: “While meeting and chatting, and even standing at the school gates of St Ebbe’s with other parents, people are asking why we are continually reacting to flooding, instead of talking about ways to prevent it – we wanted to voice that concern so we decided to use the floodwater to do it.”
Mr Clarke founded COIN in 2004 to spread the word about the effects of climate change.He continued: “Of course while no one extreme weather event can directly be linked to climate change, the patterns we are experiencing of more and worse severe weather certainly are.
“We must start talking about the wider issues and we are hoping this gets people talking.”
Other residents taking to the water in protest were the Young family, Fiona, 44, her husband Leo, 42, and children Rosie, 10, Callum, eight and Fin, four, from Friars Wharf.
Mrs Young said: “We were very keen to join in as we are extremely concerned about the effects of climate change and we want the Government and the international community to start addressing it.
“We have been lucky to avoid flooding where we live, but we have friends who have been affected over and over.”
Award-winning author and Green Party member Mark Lynas, from Wolvercote, said: “The evidence linking climate change to heavy rainfall and flooding such as we are experiencing now in the south of England, gets stronger all the time.
“Now is the time for people to speak out. We need to support communities affected by flooding, and at the same time we need to mitigate future climate change by adopting low-carbon energy sources.”
Peter Rawcliffe, of the Oxford Flood Alliance said: “While I don’t want to rubbish the issue of climate change, it could be years before people start taking real action and many more before effects are seen. What we need now are measures which are going to have immediate effect, and that is why the Oxford Flood Alliance is putting all its focus and efforts into campaigning for a Western Conveyance.”
The £123m river channel would divert water away from Oxford and stop it flooding across the city.