Time to fetch the canoe and paddles?

Photo Credit: Flickr.com/Swire

Photo Credit: Flickr.com/Swire

We have heard a great deal about climate change, global warming and the greenhouse gas effect in the past two decades. Most of us tend not to pay a huge amount of attention to media reports regarding these subjects. However, is it time that we all took some notice of what is going on around us?

Without a doubt, storms and flooding during winter and early spring have increased. In the beginning of 2014 alone, Irish news was saturated with reports of flooding and many across the country were left counting the cost of destroyed homes and businesses. There were also a number of fatalities which have resulted from the colossal storms that have swept across the country this winter.

The bad weather that affected the country was not actually the worst on record, despite the devastating impact it had on the country. ‘The Night of The Big Wind’ which occurred on January 6-7, 1839, can be cited as the worst storms ever to hit Ireland. As a result of this storm, several hundred lives were lost, as well as damage to 20-25% of homes in Dublin. Hurricane Debbie which occurred in 1961, and Hurricane Charlie in which struck in 1986, are also recorded as being up there with the worst of the storms to batter the country. However, this year’s storms were cited in the top 5.

The cost of cleaning up after the storms in January is estimated to be coming in at around 300 million euro, safe to say a lot of money for a country that has been continuously counting it’s pennies for the past decade or so. The bad weather destroyed many homes and businesses around the country, as well as damage to many landmarks and roads across Ireland. Lahinch Promenade in County Clare was badly affected due to the storms, and despite much local support to help those affected in the area, government assistance is inevitable. The cost of repairs in County Clare alone is estimated to be around 23.7 million euro.

Land mass lost due to melting polar ice caps. Photo Credit: Flickr.com/Kevin Gill

Land mass lost due to melting polar ice caps. Photo Credit: Flickr.com/Kevin Gill

The National Geographic produced a map, showing us exactly what would happen if the ice-caps were to completely melt, bearing in mind that this process has been occurring slowly but surely over the years. The map showed that in Ireland, much of the west of the country would be reclaimed by the sea, with two thirds of Connaught finding itself a part of the ever-expanding Atlantic Ocean. The map also showed that parts of Asia, including Bangladesh would be completely submerged under water as result of the melting ice caps. Is it about time we took heed of what nature is trying to tell us? Of course it might not happen in our lifetime, but our children and grand-children may very well be affected by the changing weather conditions the country is experiencing.

Photo Credit: Flickr.com/Oxfam International

Photo Credit: Flickr.com/Oxfam International

The Environmental Protection Agency produced a report which highlights not only what is happening due to climate change at present, but also the effects it will have in the future. The temperature in Ireland has increased by an average of 0.7 °Celsius between 1890 and 2008. Six out of ten of our hottest summers have occurred since 1990, and there has been an increase in rainfall in northern and western areas. Frost days and the length of frost season have also been significantly shortened in the past number of years.

Although it is easy to lay the blame on large industrial countries, as we are a small nation with little input in terms of C02 emissions, our country is in major risk should climate change continue. The future Ireland can be sure to expect more intense storms as well as a significant increase in the amount of rainfall. We will also be facing a rise in sea-levels, alongside increased likelihood and magnitude of river and coastal flooding so don’t throw out the sand bags just yet. The Environmental Protection Agency have predicted water shortages during summer and adverse impacts on the quality of water. They also believe that there will be changes to the distribution of animal and plant species around the country.

A recent IPCC report published showed that it is almost definitely humans who have caused climate change and global warming. The oil shortage, though seen as a problem, is actually seen by many as a solution that will help us to tackle climate change. Although we use renewable sources of energy on a rather small scale-c02 emissions would be dramatically cut if we were forced to rely on wind and solar energy.

The reports have shown that bad weather and flooding are going to become more common around Ireland in the future. The melting polar ice caps are a significant problem which certainly won’t be solved with ease, however as we know that adverse weather conditions are seemingly here to stay, we must take it upon ourselves to better prepare for floods and storms. It is too big price to pay to leave it up to chance.