Native species at risk as climate crisis hits home
Published 01/04/2014 | 02:30
IRELAND faces the loss of several native species including the salmon as the worst effects of climate change take hold.
A stark new report from the United Nations says the impacts of global warming are "severe, pervasive and irreversible", and warns that we must cut our emissions or risk extreme weather, global food shortages and extinction of species.
Professor John Sweeney from NUI Maynooth warned that greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural and power generation have risen since 2012, and that Ireland faced the very real prospect of missing EU targets.
He also said the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the risks Ireland faced by failing to help tackle the global problem of climate change.
"Given there's six years of research work (in the report), there's no new big surprises, but it puts it in stark reality, which is very important for policymakers," he said.
"It does highlight things we've known about but haven't grasped fully, such as declining yields for cereals in the developing world with no further warming at all.
"There's also concerns about biodiversity changes and possible extinction if we continue warming at this rate. Fish stocks, for example, are highlighted where warm water species are beginning to move north and away from other traditional areas, which has consequences for fishing communities.
"What we take for granted in terms of fish like salmon may change if our waters warm."
He said there had been an increase in emissions since 2012, primarily driven by agriculture as food production ramps up and the use of cheap coal to generate electricity. The Government had to introduce binding targets to reduce emissions, he added.
"As the economy has recovered, we're back to the bad old ways and it's important this is addressed," he said.
"We need sectoral targets which are enforceable and it needs oversight from the Taoiseach.
"The Government signed off on this report, it's now a question of taking the steps necessary to meet our existing international obligations."
The report details the global and regional impacts of climate change, including higher sea levels, increased risk of extreme weather events, impact on crop production and the prospect of climate refugees fleeing their communities.
All regions and sections of society will be hit. Health, food, safety and living standards are all threatened by rising temperatures, and as much as 2pc of global income may be lost.
The report was welcomed by Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who said it was a "vital piece of scientific policy analysis", which would help "inform our response" to tackling climate change.
"Ireland remains engaged and committed, both domestically and internationally, to advance this work," he said, but added that our "economic and environmental objectives" had to be "balanced".
The Heads of a new Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Bill would be published in the coming weeks, he added.
The IPCC report 'Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability' involved more than 1,700 researchers drawn from 70 countries.
It concluded that climate change was already having an impact, as evidenced by melting sea ice, heatwaves and extreme weather, and that it now threatened food production, the economy and security.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said our economy could benefit by investing and creating new energy, transport, food and industrial systems to reduce waste and cut pollution.
"The clean energy revolution has already begun, and it is only a matter of time before it replaces the fossil fuel alternative," he said. "The sooner we make the change, the more competitive we will be."