Tuesday 17 October 2017

Legendary presenters forecasting disaster

New documentary examines weather presenters' fears that mankind is on a path to destruction, says Lynne Kelleher

Top Irish weather experts are forecasting a Hollywood-style doomsday scenario for the planet if the human race doesn't change its way of life.

Leading forecasters and climate experts lay out a terrifying picture of the future as a result of global warming in a new RTE documentary.

One of RTE's first weather forecasters, Paddy McHugh, spelled out the worst-case scenario if climate change continues at its current pace.

He said: "If you had a pot of water and you heat it slowly you would see currents within it and bubbles bursting.

"What's happening in the atmosphere is that the gradual heating of it is causing much more vicious and violent weather events.

"It's essential that the human race begins to take care of its atmosphere," said the former director of RTE forecasting.

In RTE's Weather Permitting, leading climate expert, UCD's Professor Ray Bates, said global warming is a very real phenomenon.

He said: "Every decade for quite a long time now is warmer than the decade before it. Not every year is warmer than the year before it but every decade and this is the enhanced greenhouse effect due to man-made greenhouse gases, CO2 in particular."

Meanwhile, NUI Maynooth professor Brendan Gleeson said the recent extreme winters in Ireland could offer a peek into the years ahead.

He said: "That is consistent with climate change -- climate extremes rather than just simply just warming."

The hour-long Weather Permitting takes a light-hearted look at the huge importance of weather to the nation's daily lives and mood while examining the changes in climate to see what the shape of Ireland's weather charts will be over the next 50 years.

Popular RTE forecaster Gerry Fleming believes his successors could have a very different outlook on their horizon.

He said: "I can't help wondering what weather forecasters of the future are going to be forecasting 30 or 40 years from now."

The water shortages in the country during the winter of 2010 and 2011 brought Ireland to a standstill with burst pipes and leakages that were caused by the prolonged icy snap.

Professor Gleeson, one of the world's leading urban oceanographers, said Ireland's stressed urban system collapsed under the big freeze.

He said: "We saw the sudden and quite surprising collapse of one of our most important systems which is the system that supplies water to us.

"You would have assumed in Ireland it is in plentiful supply all the time and it was suddenly snatched from us by a stressed and collapsing urban system.

"We are an urban world for the first time and an urban species. More than 50 per cent of humans live in cities, not just in towns and settlements, but in cities and that figure is rising rapidly.

"During the next century it is expected that three-quarters of the human population will be living in large cities, particularly in the developing world."

Professor Gleeson has predicted that world temperatures would rise by three or four degrees celsius.

"We're facing a period of quite cataclysmic and very difficult and quite endangering risks in form of climate change and also in terms of the collapse of our basic food and resource systems.

"All of these things are coming together at the same time as we are becoming an urban species so it is an urban world at risk."

But he said Ireland will be a safe haven -- or what has been coined a "lifeboat" region by weather experts. "Ireland is on that lifeboat register. It is a place that will be more habitable and productive relative to other parts of the world.

"Ireland being a productive place, a stabilising place and a place that can contribute to world resources and food production needs, a stabilising point of influence for humanity during a time of great stress and change."

Weather Permitting will be shown on RTE One on Sunday, July 22, at 6.30pm

Sunday Independent

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