Wednesday 22 May 2019

Editorial: 'We must stop shrugging off threat of climate change'

'Even the most apocalyptic warnings from scientists are being shrugged off. Our indifference is inexplicable given the scale of the threat.' Stock image
'Even the most apocalyptic warnings from scientists are being shrugged off. Our indifference is inexplicable given the scale of the threat.' Stock image
Editorial

Editorial

Inertia is a disastrous response to an alarm bell. Yet since 2001, when a study from the Department of the Environment first suggested that 27pc of our coastline was at risk from coastal erosion, practically nothing has been done. It is just another indication of how delinquent we have been in recognising our obligations in looking after our little corner of the planet.

As we ignore half-hearted, hollow Government commitments to climate justice, when they are missed, we fail to notice.

Remember the solemn pledges on increasing carbon tax which were swiftly put aside once there was the slightest suggestion the move could cost votes?

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Given the lack of leadership from the top, the initiative taken by local authorities to investigate the impact of coastal erosion is a timely, if troubling reminder of how derelict we have been in our duties to future generations.

Remember some 1.9 million people, or 40pc of our population, lives within 5km of the coast. In such a context our complacency about the frequency of coastal floods and droughts, now a familiar part of our weather pattern, is baffling. While it is somewhat reassuring it is being recognised at local level that we have reached a defining moment, we are still awaiting an appropriate response, or even due recognition at national level.

Even the most apocalyptic warnings from scientists are being shrugged off. Our indifference is inexplicable given the scale of the threat.

Are we content to become a nation of climate change deniers by default, subscribing to the Donald Trump philosophy of selective delusion? The Trump administration still denies that human activity is endangering the planet by contributing to rising seas, crop failures, or extinction in the natural world.

As was pointed out in these pages recently, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are also resistant to pollution-cutting pledges.

We're hardly pillars of virtue ourselves. The Government even ignored the advice of its own Committee on Budgetary Oversight, which emphasised the use of the fiscal system to support climate change policies.

We know from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that sea level rises of up to 3.5mm a year have been recorded since the 1990s, up from 1-2mm in the decades previously. The inevitable further increases will significantly enhance the dangers of storms and storm surges.

The question is: How can we begin to manage these risks if we don't even recognise them? As a small island with large, low-lying coastal areas exposed to sea-level rises linked to global warming, we should be leading the charge to effect change; not leading the list of laggards doing nothing.

Irish Independent

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