Thursday 23 November 2017

Savage winter storms blamed on man-made climate change

A car trying to make its way through the flood waters on the Ballinrobe Road in Westport after Storm Desmond hit Picture: Paul Mealey
A car trying to make its way through the flood waters on the Ballinrobe Road in Westport after Storm Desmond hit Picture: Paul Mealey
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

The extreme rainfall of last December and January which wreaked havoc across large parts of the country is directly attributable to man-made climate change.

A new report says that Storm Desmond, which struck Ireland on December 4 last year and which resulted in widespread flooding across Mayo, Donegal and Cork, was made 40pc more likely because of global warming.

And the UN weather agency, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), says Storm Desmond was not an isolated event - half of all extreme weather events globally including drought, flooding and heatwaves are now directly linked to climate change.

The probability of extreme heatwaves has increased by 10 times or more due to man-made global warming it warns.

"One example of a precipitation (rainfall) extreme for which a discernibly anthropogenic influence could be identified was the extreme rainfall in the UK in December 2015, where it was found that climate change had made an event on the scale measured approximately 40pc more likely," the 'Global Climate in 2011-2015' report says.

Storm Desmond was quickly followed by Storm Eva and Storm Frank the same month, and resulted in hundreds of properties and transport links across the country being hit with flood waters, with insurers paying out €70m to cover the damage.

The WMO also says that the extreme cold of 2010 and 2011 was made "less probable" due to climate change. In other words, a warming planet reduces the likelihood of extremely low temperatures.

The WMO report confirms that the last five years were the hottest on record. It adds that of 79 studies published between 2011 and 2014, more than half found that human-induced climate change contributed to the extreme event in question.

High impact events for which these conclusions are drawn include Storm Desmond in Ireland and the UK last winter and the heatwave which struck western and central Europe last July. Others include the record temperatures in the United States in 2012 and Australia in 2013.

The report was submitted to the UN Climate Change Conference, COP22, which takes place at Marrakech in Morocco until November 18, where implementation of the historic Paris climate deal, which came into force last Friday, will be discussed.

It aims to limit global temperature increases to well below 2C by making profound cuts in emissions, but Ireland is lagging behind. The latest assessment of Ireland from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that emissions from transport and agriculture will continue to rise through to 2020.

The European Environment Agency yesterday named Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Luxembourg as being the only EU member states which must introduce additional policies to achieve legally-binding cuts by 2020.

"This report confirms that the average temperature in 2015 had already reached the 1C mark (above pre-industrial levels). We just had the hottest five-year period on record, with 2015 claiming the title of hottest individual year. Even that record is likely to be beaten in 2016," WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said. The record temperatures were accompanied by rising sea levels and declines in sea-ice.

Irish Independent

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