Friday 18 October 2019

Editorial: 'Storm Lorenzo roars a warning for our future'

'Tidal surges, transport chaos, flooding, power cuts, fallen trees, rainwater pooling on roads, and flying debris are no longer a shock' (stock photo)
'Tidal surges, transport chaos, flooding, power cuts, fallen trees, rainwater pooling on roads, and flying debris are no longer a shock' (stock photo)
Editorial

Editorial

There are many voices in Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's ear as final touches are put to the Budget, but the one that roared was that of nature.

Storm Lorenzo's gale-force winds and gusts are just the latest extreme weather events to snap at our shores.

Its arrival was anticipated with increasingly familiar yellow and orange alerts.

Tidal surges, transport chaos, flooding, power cuts, fallen trees, rainwater pooling on roads, and flying debris are no longer a shock.

Once more, extreme caution is advised.

We may like to imagine we can ignore climate change, but climate change has no intention of ignoring us.

Nature is not something we can beat into submission. As the friends of the planet constantly tell us: "There is no climate crisis. There is only human crisis."

And if we need further reminding, hurricanes, which could once be relied upon to roar in more exotic climes, are making their way ever closer.

Addressing the UN last month, Mr Varadkar committed to making sure all new revenues raised by new or increased carbon taxes here will be ring-fenced to pay for coping with climate action, and helping the poor to deal with higher fuel costs.

The declaration in New York was welcomed for going further than any previous pledges made by the Government on carbon taxes.

But given, by Mr Varadkar's own admission, we are perennial climate change laggards shirking obligations, this was the minimum required.

Global warming is responsible for rising temperatures, making for a warmer Atlantic.

High winds combined with high tides have the potential for risk to life.

There is also the problem of trees in full leaf being felled, bringing down power lines, hitting drainage and causing travel disruption. The advice from the emergency co-ordination group is to stay away from the coast.

A dangerous combination of low pressure, high wind speeds and exceptionally big waves has the potential to be lethal.

We have been experiencing a growing number of extreme weather events.

The World Meteorological Organisation was in no doubt the severe heat of 2018 was linked to climate change, due to a rapid war­m­­ing of the polar regions.

As eminent climate experts like John Sweeney have written, the kind of extremes we have experienced can no longer be classed as one-off occurrences: they are symptomatic of where we are headed as our planet over-heats.

Knowing this, the question must be: What are we prepared to do about it?

Much attention is rightly given to the metaphorical strong economic and political headwinds we face. But the literal ones, as Lorenzo serves to remind us, have been strengthened by our abuse of the planet.

They too will exact a price; to hand the bill to future generations is to invite catastrophe.

Irish Independent

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