Monday 21 January 2019

We ignore extreme weather at our peril

A sunken boat is seen half submerged after Storm Eleanor in Galway Bay. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
A sunken boat is seen half submerged after Storm Eleanor in Galway Bay. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne


Fear is supposed to be nature's warning system; when we ignore it we generally pay dearly, as we are beginning to learn with climate change. Concerns about potential risks from climate change have been dismissed, ignored or down-played to such extent that even when "exceptional weather events" become frequent, we are still caught off-guard.

In the wake of Storm Eleanor, Sean Hogan, chair of the National Emergency Co-ordination Group, has revealed the group will examine the alerts that were issued following complaints in Galway that people were not sufficiently notified of flooding. Despite a warning from Met Éireann of coastal flooding and high tides, the extent and speed of what happened caught many by surprise.

In a communications age, it has to be possible to develop a phone alert system to keep people up to date. Blame games achieve little. Whether an alert was red or orange may be of little consequence to someone whose business has been destroyed. We need to get effective, immediate and explicit warning systems in place.

But our whole attitude to global warming needs to be examined. In terms of being delinquent in meeting responsibilities, Ireland is a serial offender in combating climate change and its impacts. We now face massive fines for our failures, as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has acknowledged. It is here, and we'd better deal with it or it will surely deal with us.

In Florida yesterday snow flurries were falling as far south as Tallahassee, where a section of Interstate 10 had to be closed due to icy conditions. Meanwhile, in Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, they were jogging in short sleeves and ice-skating in T-shirts with an official high of 6C. High winds, floods and extreme weather are now inevitable - and shock is not an appropriate response.

Central Bank's response must be swift this time

The revelation that another lender has been found to be at fault concerning calculating mortgages should sound loud alarm bells within the financial sector. The Central Bank, which was rightly severely criticised for failures in protecting the interests of consumers over the tracker scandal, has a grave onus to make sure that any breach is dealt with immediately.

Foot-dragging and failing to act in the past took an enormous human toll, literally destroying lives as financial institutions sought to shirk responsibilities.

For the second time, a vulture fund finds itself in the firing line over its attempts to repossess homes. Tanager snapped up more than 2,000 distressed home loans from Bank of Scotland Ireland in 2010. It has miscalculated arrears levels on some mortgages.

As a result, it has had to halt legal proceedings against a number of property owners. Financial experts believe other funds that bought mortgages are now likely to be forced into admitting they too have been miscalculating arrears levels. Last year another lender, Start Mortgages, was forced to temporarily stop repossession proceedings.

A spokesperson for the Central Bank said it was aware of the issue. Without prejudice to any investigations, the Central Bank has said that it has absorbed the lessons of the past when it comes to guarding the public internet and acting swiftly.

Its response to these latest revelations will be regarded keenly as a test to this commitment.

Irish Independent

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