Climate change to 'cost €2bn a year as droughts hit crops'
Climate change will play havoc with our seasons and finely balanced agricultural sector unless serious efforts are made to reduce emissions.
An analysis of the potential impacts of global warming reveals the huge burden the economy will have to shoulder within just 40 years, with annual costs of up to €2bn possible for the agriculture sector alone due to drought, drops in crop yields and pests.
The warning comes as the United National Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that immediate action was needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, energy and the agricultural sectors to limit global warming to 2C by the end of the century.
Rising sea levels and risk of flooding, food shortages, drought and possible conflict would arise unless the amount of carbon being produced was halted and reductions implemented as soon as possible, its fifth assessment report on the state of the climate said.
The impacts of global warming were "severe, pervasive and irreversible", it added. Dr Frank McGovern, from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who represented Ireland during discussions to finalise the IPCC report, said the implications of failing to act would be catastrophic. "Unmitigated climate change is not something we like to consider," he said.
"A scenario of unmitigated climate change, or business as usual greenhouse gas emissions, is likely to have significant consequences for Ireland. It would increase the risk of both direct and indirect climate change impacts. These would evolve over the course of this century and beyond. The details remain uncertain but some elements can be identified.
"For Ireland, reasons for concern include sea-level rise, increases in extreme events, loss of ecosystems and loss of assets and infrastructure.
"They would also include associate risks of loss of life, risks of increasing health impacts and social and economic disruption of key sectors including agriculture.
"Vulnerable groups in Ireland are likely to require on-going assistance or relocation. There may be a movement of peoples to Ireland from other areas of Europe and elsewhere, perhaps on a seasonal basis, due to adverse climate conditions."
The Government is currently finalising climate change legislation, which is expected to be published in the coming weeks.
The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill will set out how Ireland will become a low-carbon economy by 2050.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan has repeatedly said that Ireland will comply with emissions targets agreed at EU level, however, the bill is behind schedule.
It was due to be published last year and the Government was expected to adopt a national policy setting out the transition to a low-carbon economy by the end of 2013.
There are concerns about the cost of financing the changes needed, including moving away from fossil fuels and producing power from renewable sources.
However, the IPCC says that tackling climate change would shave 0.06pc off expected annual global growth rates of 1.3pc to 3pc.
The report did not factor in the financial benefits of reducing emissions, such as improved energy security and cuts in air pollution.
The most recent figures show that emissions from all sectors currently stand at 57.92 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, a slight increase.