‘Government needs to plan for climate change’

THE cities of Dublin, Cork and Galway could be uninhabitable in 100 years if the Government doesn’t start planning for climate change by considering the development of massive flood barriers such as that on the River Thames, the Irish Academy of Engineers (IAE) has warned.

The IAE said we urgently need to start identifying infrastructure across the country that is vulnerable to climate change, as well as begin to ensure new infrastructure is future-proofed to withstand the climate extremes predicted. He points to the Netherlands, where their Delta Commission has plans to spend €1.5 billion per year from now to 2050 on climate-proofing the country.

Engineering consultant Don Moore warned that the world is spending too much time on mitigating climate change and too little time working out how to counter the effects of such likely change.

“Far too little attention is being paid to issues like rising sea levels. We have to remember that sea levels could quite easily rise by up to a metre over current levels. The flooding of Cork and Dublin and other coastal towns is a real issue. We speak now of one-in-100 year floods, but there is a real likelihood that we could have one-in-10 year flooding of cities. This would make our city centres uninhabitable,” Mr Moore said.

“You’ve only to think of Hurricane Katrina,” warns IAE president Michael Hayden “for an example of how climate change coupled with poor planning and zoning decisions can lead to social and economic disaster.”

The IAE wants an audit of the country’s infrastructure so we can ensure that vital human services, such as clean water and sewage disposal, will remain functional in the face of rising sea levels and possible droughts during summer months.

It urges the Government to stop development on flood plains, to assign responsibility for the protection of critical infrastructure to an existing government agency, and calls for water authorities on both sides of the border to work together to manage what “will be a precious resource”.

“We can’t just continue to drift forward. Too often in our past, we have been bedevilled by lack of planning. Climate change may not happen evenly. It’s not as if everything will suddenly change in 100 years. These storm surges and extremes of temperatures could happen in 20, 50 or 60 years. We should be looking at developing a Thames Barrier in Cork and Dublin. Yes, it will be expensive but look at the alternative: cities wiped out,” Mr Moore said.

He warns that “water will be a very precious resource” in the future and that we must conserve water through water charges and by infrastructural development so we can quickly transfer water, if necessary, from areas of low population to areas of bigger need, ie Dublin.

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