The recent announcement by Bord na Móna of its plans to cease exploitation of several bogs for peat harvesting has to be welcomed from an environmental point of view although it comes at a high price in terms of job losses and the resulting body blow to the economy and social fabric of the Midlands.
The announcement coincided with the promotion by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its series of lectures and national dialogue on climate change and global warming.
Since we have evolved to respond quickly to immediate threats, as a people we are better at dealing with fire brigade events that long-term planning. If houses flood, people are great at rallying to assist neighbours, help man the pumps, make sandwiches, fill sandbags and contribute to charities. We are not as good or as focused when it comes to anticipating the consequences of building houses on flood plains.
Consider the long-term overview for a moment. For 350 million years carbon dioxide was drawn out of the air by plants and locked away underground as peat, coal, oil and gas. We only started extracting and burning these fossil fuels in a significant way some 250 years ago. Most of the growth in emissions of harmful greenhouse gasses has been in the last 50 years.
The greenhouse gasses in the air trap heat energy making the planet warmer. Energy is being added to our atmosphere at a rate equivalent to that of five Hiroshima-style atomic bombs exploding every second.
Energy in the atmosphere makes weather. And since more energy makes worse weather, extreme events like storms, damaging winds, heavy rain, floods, drifting snow and summer droughts are all likely to become more frequent, more serious and more damaging with obvious implications for human survival, safety, health and wellbeing.
For a wildlife point of view, failure to address global warming and climate change in a meaningful way is resulting in global mass extinction of biodiversity. The EPA notes we have halved the number of back-boned animals on the planet since only 1970. The starkest statistic is that we are losing species at the rate of eight every hour, the greatest and fastest rate of extinction the planet has ever seen. And we are causing it.
The aforementioned EPA's series of public lectures and national dialogue on global warming and climate change is broadcast to the web. For information on the lectures and related climate science information go to www.epa.ie/climate/communicatingclimatescience.