Contemporary climate change includes both global warming and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are distinctly more rapid and not due to natural causes. Instead, they are caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. Burning fossil fuels for energy use creates most of these emissions. Agriculture, steelmaking, cement production, and forest loss are additional sources. Greenhouse gases are transparent to sunlight, allowing it through to heat the Earth's surface. When the Earth emits that heat as infrared radiation the gases absorb it, trapping the heat near the Earth's surface. As the planet heats up it causes changes like the loss of sunlight-reflecting snow cover, amplifying global warming.
As a heatwave engulfs the country and climate change causes the globe to get increasingly warmer, botanists are faced with the challenge of reconsidering what plants can thrive in their new environment.
A unique visitor has been spotted this week in the insular community of Montecito, California — home to the ultra-wealthy and famous, including Oprah, Gwyneth Paltrow and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan.
A central concept in international politics is that of ‘resolve’. It is the theory that if both sides in a conflict are aware of each other’s levels of motivation, then the less resolute side is often likely to back down even when materially more powerful. Napoleon himself suggested it was three times more important than material might.
Too many of us imagine that climate change just means that things will be a touch warmer and that we will somehow muddle through, like we always do. This is plain wrong. Instead of global warming and climate change, we now talk of global heating and climate breakdown, and there is a reason for this. Our planet is not only warmer, but heating more rapidly than at any time in at least the last 55 million years, and quite possibly at the fastest rate in its 4.6 billion-year history.
Last year, the Government committed to an action plan to reduce our emissions to zero by 2050 — promising “a cleaner, greener economy and society” to protect us from climate change. To get there, the Government committed to reduce carbon emissions by 51pc by 2030. Last week’s targets are to get us to the 2030 cut.
The agreement reached at government level to finally apply limits on Ireland’s high levels of carbon pollution is welcome insofar as it goes, but there is no room for complacency or scope for backsliding — the opposite, in fact. The targets set out will probably have to be revised upwards this decade if the country is to meet its obligations by 2030.
Since most farm produce is exported, imposing output restrictions in Ireland by, say, culling dairy cows, will fail to reduce emissions. With global demand unaffected, the shortfall will be met from producers elsewhere, including some whose carbon footprint per unit is worse than the figures for Ireland. As the planet shares a common atmosphere, territorial targets for carbon emissions make no scientific sense.
“There is no Planet B” is a slogan commonly used by young climate change activists, including Greta Thunberg. The play on words springs to mind as the leaders of the coalition contemplate how to resolve the impasse over emissions reduction targets. Plan A has failed and there is no guarantee Plan B will be any better.
Coalition climate talks to agree on major reductions in agricultural emissions continued last night, with the Greens demanding bigger cuts than Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were prepared to concede.
Wildfires and heatwaves wreaking havoc across swathes of the globe show humanity is facing “collective suicide”, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned recently as governments scrambled to protect people from the extreme heat.
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