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How much money are you prepared to spend - just in case?

Ben James Ben James | 09:23 UK time, Tuesday, 21 December 2010


People sleeping at Heathrow airport



As thousands of people spend another day stuck in two of Europe's largest airports - Frankfurt and London Heathrow - thanks to snow and ice grounding planes, there's a common thread to much of the comment:

We need to be better prepared ...  The attitude of uncertainty cannot last, and it is a time for the authorities to be ready for the worst that each winter might bring.

... declares an editorial from Northern Ireland, where it hit -15C last night (usual average minimum in December: +3C).

But here's another take on Twitter from @RtHonIR, also in the UK

If u want our winter equipment to be like Norway, do u want your road tax to double? To the levels it is over there?

How much should governments, airports, train companies, road management companies, spend on preparing for events that only might happen? And if you think more should be spent, are you willing to spend more on your tickets and taxes to pay for it?

This isn't just a European debate: often with reference to extreme events becoming more regular thanks to climate change, these stories from the last year or so about Canada, California, the Philippines and Vietnam show a similar discussion.

Obviously the implications of some of those weather events are much much worse than merely people having to sleep on camp beds in airports - so is it only when a small risk is life-threatening that serious money should be spent?

Perhaps the cost doesn't have to be passed on to us; some consider a company should sacrifice some profit to spend that money.  Al Jazeera's correspondent reports

the parent company that runs Heathrow has come under a lot of criticism in the past for not being prepared to put in the sort of investment and infrastructure that would allow the airport to be able to put up with conditions like this.

But should the company be compelled make that investment? Or is it up to them how they spend their cash? Should transport infrastructure be treated any differently to any other commercial service?

Finally, should there be more personal responsibility here? California is also being hit by severe and unusual weather at the moment - this website encourages people to take their own steps to assess what might happen to them and plan accordingly.

Should we just accept that sometimes nature will get in the way of our plans, no matter what the preparations? As Tom D Ford posted here yesterday:

In a way I think it is a good thing that no matter how much we humans try to isolate and protect ourselves from the natural world, the natural world still barges through and makes its presence known.


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