Ireland ‘to face more extreme weather’

More extreme weather events, increased flood risks during winter and near-drought in some parts during the summer — Ireland needs to prepare itself for the effects of global climate change, experts warned yesterday.

The fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlined the full scale of climate change and how it will impact on the world in the coming decades, while pinning the blame firmly on mankind.

In particular, the warming up of the globe will mean the continual rising of sea levels and further increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases.

For Ireland, experts here said the country was in a stronger position than many of our European neighbours in terms of the possible effects of climate change — but we will not be immune.

Dr Conor Murphy, researcher with the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units (Icarus) based at NUI Maynooth, said the latest data, while difficult to project at national level, indicated some likely trends that governments needed to begin planning for now.

They include:

* An increase in temperatures by 2C relative to current conditions by the end of the century;

* Increases in rainfall of up to 12% on current levels in parts of the country during winter, in particular the West and North-West;

* Substantial decreases in rainfall in the summer, possibly by as much as 20%, primarily in the East and South-East;

* Heightened risk of river and coastal flooding events, particularly in coastal cities;

* An increased likelihood of extreme weather events.

On the increased frequency of extreme weather events — such as the severe flooding in Cork in summer 2012 and the massive rain downpour in Dublin in Nov 2011 — Dr Murphy said events that currently might occur every 100 years may occur every 30 to 40 years by the end of the century.

“Our cities are typically by the coast and built on rivers and so are open to both the risk of river flooding and sea level rises.”

The challenges posed by climate change are unlikely to lead to the threat of coastal Irish towns and cities disappearing under the sea, but does mean the need for better buffers against extreme weather events.

He said Ireland had “a lot of advantages relative to other parts of Europe” that could face more extreme effects of climate change, although challenges such as protecting power supply and hospitals in extreme weathers, and gaining greater energy self-sufficiency will remain.

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