Tuesday 16 January 2018

Assembly warned of '50 per cent decrease in frosty days' in Ireland over the coming years

Ireland set for dramatic changes in weather (Stock photo)
Ireland set for dramatic changes in weather (Stock photo)
Stock picture

Laura Lynott

THE future impact of severe flooding in Ireland can only be lessened if the State concentrates efforts on flood defences, a UK climate change expert has said.

Dr Peter Stott, scientific strategic head for climate monitoring at the UK’s Met Office, said Ireland is experiencing sea level rises of around 3mm a year.

Dr Stott told the Citizens’ Assembly the “impact” was dependent on “what’s done about the adaption measures on flood defence.”

In August parts of Donegal were severely flooded costing an estimated €15.3 million. On Friday the Dail voted to support Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesman Charlie McConologue in his motion to financially support affected families and businesses.

The Donegal TD recently accused the Government of not investing in flood defence to curb flooding in recent years.

Dr Scott said that even if Ireland commits to the “extremely difficult scenario” of decreasing the State’s greenhouse emissions to below 1C - a condition of the Paris Agreement - the country still had to deal with the impact of environmental changes, such as flooding.

The climate expert said State and society needed to consider all ways of life including, travel and how homes are heated, if Ireland was to make rapid environmental change.

“If it became the mainstream it would help - if I was in charge of policy, that’s what I’d try to do,” Dr Scott said to an applause from the Assembly.

He suggested cutting bureaucracy within the State to help people live a greener life.

Dr Saji Varghese, head of research and environment at Met Éireann, said Irish meteorologists were predicting climate “to help protect the life and safety of the Irish public.”

Heavy rain and flooding washed away a section of main road in Quigley’s Point, Co Donegal. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
Heavy rain and flooding washed away a section of main road in Quigley’s Point, Co Donegal. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

“We are on a mission for the next 10 years and a key area we’ve focused on is the re- analysis of climate data to fill the gaps,” he added.

“We have old climate data records from the 17th century. We also have international collaborations.  Temperatures have been increasing since 1900 in Ireland.”

Dr Varghese said average temperatures have increased by 0.8C since 1900.  “Over the past few decades it’s clear that for all seasons, temperatures are on the rise.”

Read More: Citizens' Assembly hears that Government is 'long fingering' climate change policy

He said rainfall has increased by around 70mm from 1941 to 2015.  Heavy rain and wet days were an “indicator of climate change” he said.

Dr Verghese said British research had showed rising levels of 1.7mm a decade in the south of Ireland.  The levels are rising from around 2 to 3mm a year since the early 90s based on satellite imagery, he explained.

Another worrying prediction the researcher pointed out, is an expected 50 per cent decrease in frosty days in the years ahead.

Dr Varghese said:  “We have to bear in mind any change we make to emissions gases has an economic effect.

“If the UK and Ireland decided no more greenhouse gases and stopped all fossil fuels, green tech could be a big industry.

“We have to leave a good place for our children and grandchildren - we have to be responsible.”

Brian Carroll, assistant secretary general leading the climate action and environment function at the Department of Communications, said the Programme for Government initiated last year, had committed to a “low carbon future by 2050.”

“No one has a monopoly on how to get there,” Mr Carroll said.  “Because of the economic downturn, we may come close to compliance (on gas emissions) but it was this (recession) that led us to have less investment on targets.”

Mr Carroll added that the issue was “more than about Government expenditure,” but that there was room for a “road for taxation and regulation.”

A female member of the Assembly stated the Government should “lead by example” but that by setting out to fail to meet emission targets, it was not promoting the green message to citizens.

A male member added that he was “flabbergasted” no questions could be put by the citizens to Mr Carroll, the only Government representative at the event.

“To be starting this (debate) in 2017 is shameful,” he said.  “Why can’t hospitals have solar panels.  We’d be saving money.  You ask why people switch off - if the Government isn’t willing to lead, you switch off. If the Government is in a stronger position to do so, why should you lead?”

Assembly Chair Mary Laffoy said there had been “no sinister” reasoning behind restricting questions to Mr Carroll and that it had merely been decided this section of the event would only be a brainstorming session.

Several other members of the Assembly also called into question the Government’s “lack of leadership” on climate change.

Some members suggested environmental schemes be introduced including solar panels to be installed in all new builds, plastic free supermarkets and initiatives akin to the tidy town events but concentrating on the environment.

1,200 members of the public made submissions on climate change to the Assembly.  The group will meet again tomorrow.

The Assembly’s recommendations will then be submitted to the Oireachtas.

Online Editors

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