While climate change is not a new kid on the block, it seems we have—until recent years—always found a way to brush it under the rug. It appears that only now, in the face of adversity, we confront its undeniable presence and hesitate to consider our own contribution to global warming.
Climate change is the shift in the Earth’s natural climate and ecology spurred by human activity (pollution, radiation, deforestation, and so forth) opposed to Mother Nature.
In recent decades, the discussion of climate change and the reality of its impact have been thrust into the mediascape and hashed out on the world stage. Leaders of the free world have hosted emergency summits and initiated policies to reduce its impact.
How, you might ask yourself, will this actually impact me here on the Emerald Isle? Here are five ways climate change will affect Ireland.
5. Oceans will acidify
Although changes in our ecosystem are expected and unavoidable to a certain degree, what we are now experiencing is a colossal change—a shift so great that it has accelerated decades ahead of scientific projections.
While pollution to our oceans—which cover 71% of Planet Earth—has been a topic of discussion for decades, ocean acidification is a more recently faced reality.
Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discusses the issue on its website. “Ocean Acidification will have harmful effects on marine organisms and has the potential to disrupt global marine ecosystems.”
The Marine Institute’s report explores the threat of ocean acidification in Ireland to a great extent. It explains: “increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere due to anthropogenic activities, such as fossil fuel use, causes changes in ocean chemistry, leading to a decrease in the pH of seawater. This process is referred to as ocean acidification.”
Ocean acidification not only harms marine life, but it will inevitably the change marine ecosystem as we know it in Ireland.
4. Storms will intensify
When it comes to ways that climate change will affect Ireland, we can expect to see storms intensify. It is widely agreed that recent years have seen some of the most erratic weather conditions across the island of Ireland.
Mega storms with gale-force winds have become common, while road flooding and rainfall are no longer associated with the cooler months of the year and can be seen throughout the spring and summer.
Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency says that in Ireland, climate change will bring “more intense storms and rainfall events [and] increased likelihood and magnitude of river and coastal flooding.”
Met Éireann, Ireland’s national meteorological service, says that climate change is certain to bring “an increase in extreme storm activity over Ireland.”
3. Water levels will rise
Global warming is the slow and steady increase of the Earth’s temperature caused by the levels of carbon dioxide, CFCs, and other pollutants in the atmosphere.
Anthropogenic activities (pollution caused by humans)—such as burning fossil fuels, overexploitation of natural resources, and pollution—contribute to this.
As the Earth’s temperature gets warmers, ice sheets and glaciers melt, causing the sea levels to rise.
By 2100, many coastal parts of Ireland will be underwater due to sea levels rising. That is only 81 years away. Locations at risk include Galway, Waterford, Dublin, Belfast, and Mayo, to name a few.
2. Nature will change
A major element of climate change that will affect Ireland is the ultimate shift in nature.
Fisheries and waterways that were once bountiful with catch will become barren, sensitive to changes in temperature. Plant and animal species that are native to the Emerald Isle will retreat, and those that migrate in the summer months are likely to disappear too.
Met Éireann explains the reality we face: “higher temperatures in late winter or early spring results in butterflies appearing earlier in the year and birds shifting their migration patterns. The pace of future change will cause stress to ecosystems which are unable to adapt quickly.”
1. Temperatures will increase
Of all the ways that climate change will affect Ireland, the most evident impact is sure to be the slow but sure rise in temperatures.
Winters will become balmier, as will springs, summers, and autumns. And although in theory that doesn’t sound like a bad behavioural change at all, we must ask why our weather is taking such a course.
Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency explains, “the clearest trend is evident in the temperature records which show a mean temperature increase of 0.7o C between 1890 and 2008, i.e. an increase of 0.06o C per decade.”
Met Éireann adds that “warming is enhanced for the extremes (i.e. hot or cold days), with highest daytime temperatures projected to rise by 0.7–2.6°C in summer and lowest night-time temperatures to rise by 1.1–3°C in winter.”
They go on to say that “milder winters will, on average, reduce the cold-related mortality rates among the elderly and frail but this may be offset by increases due to heat stress in the warmer summers.”