Friday 16 November 2018

How climate change finally entered the Irish consciousness

'Abigail, Barney and Clodagh were quickly forgotten; but Desmond
will not'
'Abigail, Barney and Clodagh were quickly forgotten; but Desmond will not'

John Sweeney

Until a few years ago, climatologists were loathe to link any extreme weather event to climate change. More severe events could usually be cited from times past, when human impacts on the atmosphere were negligible. Scientifically, it was not possible to disentangle natural from human influences on climate.

Thus, while the frequency and intensity of storms or heavy rainfall is expected to increase significantly as the ocean and air in the vicinity of Ireland warms, pinning down individual events to such factors was considered speculative. However, the science has advanced and in December the scientific journal 'Nature' claimed greenhouse gas loading of the atmosphere had made the flooding event associated with Storm Desmond 40pc more likely.

In many ways, the people of Ireland were ahead of the scientists in realising climate change had come home to roost, and the events of early December merely reinforced their conclusions. The scenes of devastation around Ireland, so reminiscent of a similar event in November 2009, reminded us that established statistical concepts such as the "once in a century event" are flawed as the data calculations on which they are founded are debased by a climate change signal, which awakens us to a new reality of living with, and adapting to, climate change.

Please sign in or register with for free access to this article.

Sign In

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss