Editorial: As a society, as individuals, we must do everything to stop climate change

The world is entering uncharted territory© Getty Images


Nothing travels faster than the speed of light – except perhaps, bad news.

Adverse climate change reports race around the world with alarming regularity.

Perversely, the more downbeat they are, the more likely the collective public mind will revert to its default position – of switching off.

Thus warnings – no matter how grave – are greeted with nonchalant shrugs.

But a new study – showing global temperatures are likely to temporarily breach the 1.5C of warming threshold for at least one of the next five years – ought command our attention, even if it is unlikely to feature prominently in bar-stool conversations.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) tells us there is still time to respond, and we must use it; otherwise all bets may soon be off.

“We really are now within reach of a temporary exceeding of 1.5C for the annual mean, and it’s the first time in human history that we’ve been that close,” said Adam Scaife, who helped compile the study.

Limiting global warming to within 1.5C of pre-industrial temperatures was a key part of the Paris Agreement. The stark fact is that, according to the report, record heatwaves are all but assured.

It says there’s a 98pc chance that at least one of the next five years will break the record set in 2016,

Simply put, even the most obdurate must accept there is real-time evidence that climate change is here and now.

Parts of northern Europe – including Ireland – are projected to see increased summer rainfall. Heavy rain, leading to flooding in Europe and the Sahel region in recent years, has been linked to climate change.

In contrast, the Amazon and parts of Australia will see reduced rainfall between May and September. This will provoke a drying trend in the Amazon which will worsen the rainforest’s decline.

These forests are “the lungs of the earth”. Damage to them will affect us all.

Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary-general, believes we are entering “uncharted territory”.

“This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment.” he said.

However, as the report notes, the “breach” may be temporary – and we have an opportunity to act. We must accelerate our transition to renewables.

Embracing sustainable living must be led by the State. We are uniquely poised to develop our enormous wind energy potential. The case for deploying some of the surplus billions we have in this direction, is obvious.

The same might be said of insulating and retrofitting homes. Significant energy savings can be made – but for many people, the costs are prohibitive. Once again, the Government needs to take a lead to maximise grants and incentives.

Our options concerning transport and travel also make a difference. People are more likely to leave cars at home when there are proper public transport alternatives.

It remains our collective and individual responsibility to preserve our irreplaceable planet.