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Venice Council Chambers Flood After Officials Vote Down Climate Change Measures

The council for the Italian region of Veneto, which includes the floating-turned-flooding city of Venice, reportedly rejected a number of policy amendments designed to tackle climate change just moments before flood waters rushed into the council chambers.

Venice has been suffering its worst inundation in 53 years thanks to a combination of seasonal high tides, heavy rainfall and ongoing subsidence of the city. On Tuesday Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said the floods “are the effects of climate change.”

The regional council chambers are located in the Palazzo Ferro Fini, along the Grand Canal of Venice, and began to take on water for the first time ever around 10 p.m. Tuesday, according to a Facebook post with photos by council member Andrea Zanoni.

In the highly partisan post, Zanoni writes that just before water entered the room, members of the majority coalition rejected budget amendments seeking funding for more efficient buses, renewable energy and reducing the use of plastics.

Zanoni is a member of the Democratic party, which is part of a minority opposition coalition on the council.

Council President Roberto Ciambetti also posted videos of the flooding on Facebook, including images of workers pumping water from the chambers the following morning.

Ciambetti, a member of the right-wing Liga party, took issue with Zanoni’s criticism that the ruling coalition on the council has done little to address flooding.

“Beyond propaganda and deceptive reading, we are voting (for) a regional budget that spent €965 million over the past three years in the fight against air pollution, smog, which is a determining factor in climate change,” he told CNN.

Local politics aside, Zanoni is right to point out the bitterly ironic symbolism of flood waters as an immediate response to any discussion of overdue measures.

Venice is only the canary in the coal mine; the low-hanging fruit easily swept away by high tides bound to grow higher.

The fatal floods in Venice (two have died as a result of the waters as of Thursday morning) comes less than a month after much of Chesapeake Bay saw “sunny day” coastal flooding brought on by high tides and an offshore tropical storm. Flooding was seen in Alexandria, Annapolis and Baltimore.

While images of a flooded St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice are tragic, climate change is perhaps better illustrated by the slow, creeping normalization and higher frequency of events like those in Maryland that would have seemed more extreme just a few decades ago.

Last month, a new study warned that the number of people living in low-lying regions that will flood annually as the planet warms and oceans rise is three times higher than previously thought: about 300 million people worldwide will be at risk by 2050.

Venice is actively working to protect itself from rising waters with a major project to build flood gates around the lagoon city, whether it will be too little too late remains to be seen. Also unknown is what the rest of the world will learn (or fail to learn) from the city’s ongoing saga.

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