Venice is flooded – again – and the mayor Luigi Brugnaro is blaming climate change. This has become the standard dog-ate-my-homework excuse for desperate politicians and administrators who want to dodge their responsibilities while simultaneously attracting media sympathy and aid money.
But it’s rubbish, of course. The real reason for Venice’s plight is whichever idiot who decided all those years ago to build the city on a series of swampy islands at the edge of a lagoon.
On the plus side, this helped the Venetians build a wealthy maritime empire and later to extract gazillions of euros from tourists who think it’s romantic being propelled in a funny looking boat down rancid, rat-infested canals by a man in a stripy shirt with a long stick. On the downside, Venice is slowly going the way of Atlantis.
There is nothing weird about Venice flooding at this time of year. From Autumn to Spring is the season known as ‘acqua alta’, when the tides in the Adriatic are higher than usual, so it’s not uncommon for attractions like Piazza San Marco to be inundated with water rather than the usual hapless travellers being fleeced for a 20 Euro cappucino.
In 2003, Venice began building a flood barrier – known as Moses – which was supposed to put an end to all that. But as is the way with Italian public works projects — in fact, all public works projects everywhere — it has run fearfully overbudget, become riddled with corruption, and taken much longer than originally planned.
According to Business Insider:
While citizens have long worried about the high cost of construction, which recently climbed to around $6.3 billion, the municipality of Venice has questioned the barrier’s stability in the face of rising sea levels. Both environmental groups and the EU Commission have also expressed concern that construction would pollute the local habitat.
The biggest obstacle arrived in 2014, when then Mayor Giorgio Orsoni was arrested alongside 35 other people on corruption charges related to the project. Orsoni was accused of accepting bribes in exchange for awarding contracts, but he was absolved three years later.
Now, Moses is being held up in its final leg of construction. The flood gates were originally set to open around 2011, but some officials don’t expect them to be ready until 2022. As the project continues to stall, many have warned that mold and marine life are eroding the underwater structure.
This is being billed as the ‘worst flooding in Venice in 50 years’. But it’s still two inches short of the ‘worst ever’ flooding in 1966. Which rather invites the question: if it’s ‘climate change’ that is causing it now, what was the cause 53 years ago when CO2 levels were about 90 ppm lower?
Could it be, maybe, that Venice is sinking, that tides will rise, and that flooding every now and then is what Venice does.