IT MIGHT sound like the script for a terrifying Hollywood end-of-the-world blockbuster.
Ireland will act like a lifeboat for people fleeing drought, rising seas and destructive weather in decades to come, a leading climate change expert has warned.
NUI Maynooth professor Brendan Gleeson predicted that world temperatures would rise by three or four degrees, leaving only a few currently cool 'lifeboat' regions habitable.
In a speech last night he said Ireland, one of his 'lifeboats', could not refuse to engage with the climate crisis as crippled countries would see us as a safe haven.
Prof Gleeson, one of the world's leading urban oceanographers, also forecast that his native Australia may become a place to leave rather than a destination for Irish migrants.
"Australia, the desiccated continent, is already witness to record droughts, soaring average temperatures and plummeting catchments for the cities," he said.
"It may be a place to leave, not arrive, a place to be childless, not fertile -- a withering society."
The professor said that unlike Australia, Ireland was on his "lifeboat register".
"For this reason alone Ireland must consider and cannot refuse to engage the climate crisis."
He added that recent weather and seismic and nuclear events were a window into the future.
"Cities, including in Ireland, can be reconceived as escape rafts during the painful journey to a new climate regime," he said.
Prof Gleeson, who joined NUI Maynooth from Griffith University, Australia, was speaking at Maynooth on the dangers of climate change.
In 'An Urban World at Risk', the first in a series of professorial lectures at the university, the oceanographer outlined what he called "the climate emergency".
"We cannot know precisely how the disaster will unfold, but the southern megacities in Africa, the sub-continental states and Asia will be the first to go under, taking with them a substantial proportion of our species," he said.
"This will generate enormous migratory shifts, as displaced and stressed populations flee the sea level rise and wildly destructive weather.
"Where are the lifeboats? They are surely the cities, the few cities, in which most of our population resides.
"This applies to Ireland. We might hope to make them resilient and worthwhile, even for a scarifying climate.
"Of all the threats that have faced capitalist modernity in the past 400 years, none has possessed the lethal potency of climate change."
The scientist predicted: "The next world will be very much hotter and drier -- but with whirling under- and counter-currents.
"It will be much less conducive to human existence.
"It will be a world dominated by a global climate shift that we cannot yet describe fully, but which is inevitable and approaching fast."