Economy must ready for climate change: report

Ireland needs to prepare for the effects of its changing climate on its economy, warns a report from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“There is a general lack of information available on the vulnerability of Ireland’s industry and business to climate change,” it states.

There is particular concern that industries such as pharmaceuticals, IT, food, and refrigeration could all suffer from a shortage of water in the summer and heavy rainfall in the winter.

Some of the findings outlined in the report include an increase in mean annual temperatures in Ireland by 0.8C since 1900 and that all seasons are warmer than the 1961-1990 average.

Average annual rainfall has increased by about 60mm, or 5%, over the period 1981-2010, compared to 1961-1990.

Significant changes in seasonal rainfall patterns are expected by mid-century, including drier summer conditions, but these are uncertain.

Other changes include fewer but more intense storms and an increase in winter flooding.

Lead author Margaret Desmond, from the Environmental Research Institute at University College Cork, said the impacts of global climate change for Ireland were now clearer and more compelling.

“Observations of the atmosphere, oceans, and land show that Ireland’s climate is changing. The observed scale and rate of change is similar to global trends,” said Dr Desmond.

“These changes are projected to continue and increase over the coming decades,” she said.

EPA director general Laura Burke said Ireland needs to prepare for the local effects of global climate change.

She said the just-published report — A Summary of the State of Knowledge on Climate Change Impacts for Ireland — would help the country plan for a climate-resilient future.

Ms Burke said Ireland has already committed to large-scale decarbonisation of electricity generation, transport, and residential heating by 2050.

“This is a necessary contribution to addressing the causes of climate change, as is enhancing the uptake of carbon in our forests and soils,” she said.

Dr Desmond said the first State of Knowledge report on climate change was published in 2009 but the impacts of global climate change for Ireland were now clearer and more compelling.

“Trends are apparent in the temperature, precipitation records, as well as in sea-level rise and changing ecosystems,” she said.

Dr Desmond said climate projections showed that while the trends would continue, uncertainties remain on the details.

However, the effectiveness of global actions to limit the extent of global climate change remained a key uncertainty.

The report combines information from a range of studies undertaken by third-level institutions, Met Éireann, and other government agencies, as well as material from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

It points out that the sea level continues to rise and that will worsen the effects of storm surges and wave erosion in coastal areas.

The report stresses that warming of the global climate system was indisputable and it was extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause since the mid-20th century.

It says a national-level climate change risk assessment is needed to set out the priority climate risks for Ireland.

Also, possible opportunities for Ireland in areas such as agriculture, tourism, and industry should be identified.

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