independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

The implications if we continue to ignore the warning signs

Climate change has implications for buildings, tourism, waster water, economics and biodiversity
Climate change has implications for buildings, tourism, waster water, economics and biodiversity

Just what could be the major impacts on society?

BUILDINGS

Driving rain caused by high winds is expected to increase by up to 16pc in some areas, increasing the amount of water retained in the building.

This causes damage to doors, windows, facades and walls, meaning the building is wetter for longer, is more susceptible to mould growth and its structural integrity can be affected.

Building standards should be revised based on the climatic conditions expected to occur during the building's lifetime.

More robust buildings will have to be constructed, which will result in higher costs, while taller buildings will have to be reinforced to cope with storms and high winds.

TOURISM

Average July temperatures are forecast to increase by 2.5C by 2050, and another 1C by 2075. This means the tourist season could be extended from April or May to October.

The south and east will be most affected by reduced summer rainfall, dropping by 25pc to 40pc in some parts.

However, extreme weather events could result in landslides and scarring of the landscape due to prolonged dry periods, which will impact on outdoor activities such as walking, golf and cycling.

Increased numbers of tourists will also place pressure on water supplies.

WASTE WATER

Prolonged periods of rainfall will result in the ground absorbing more water, resulting in higher water tables.

This means that groundwater sources of drinking water will be more exposed to contamination from bugs including e-coli and cryptosporidium in septic tanks, which can affect human health.

Where possible, all homes should be connected to the public mains. Planning authorities will also have to factor in extreme weather events which deciding if planning permission should be granted, and "much more conservative" policies will have to be adopted.

ECONOMICS

At least 350 square kilometres of coastline is considered at risk if sea level changes of just one metre occur. The potential cost of damage to property is estimated at €1bn.

Analysis of river flooding suggests that 1,800 properties could be directly affected, leading to potential insurance claims of €46m.

In terms of wetlands near coasts, a metre rise in sea level would result in costs of €24m a year being incurred.

Experts believe that failure to tackle climate change will result in costs of up to 5pc of global GDP. Even if a 2.5pc figure for Ireland is used, the costs will be €4bn a year.

BIODIVERSITY

Some 274 species and 20 habitats were examined to see what impact climate change would have on them.

"The results yield clear evidence that many species . . . and many of our protected habitats . . . will experience negative consequences of climate change," it says,

Areas where certain species of moss, liverwort and fern are found will be reduced. Species at higher altitudes will suffer the greatest loss of range.

Plants in protected areas will be most at risk, while raised and blanket bogs and coastal habitats such as fixed dunes will be impacted. Invasive species may migrate to Ireland, putting pressure on native plants and animals.

Irish Independent

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