Irish people are living in denial when it comes to climate change

Daffodils blooming in November. Grass growing at Christmas. Climate change is here for all to see, writes Donal Hickey

Yet, there seems to be a large amount of public apathy and certainly no public clamour for urgent action to deal with the problem.

The other night on RTÉ news, the sight of flower grower Brian Perrott’s field, near
Bandon, Co Cork, full of daffodils provided graphic evidence of changes in the seasons. Ireland has already been experiencing more intense rainfall, flooding and storms while longer, drier summers — with possible water shortages and drought — are predicted by scientific authorities.

But the expert authors of a new book on Dublin Bay highlight apathy among Irish people and a “surprising lack of awareness’’ about the threats posed.

“As thousands of people across the globe march in rallies for action on climate change and the effects of global warming become increasingly obvious, most Irish people seem to be living either in ignorance or in denial of these issues,’’ they say.

Richard Nairn, David Jeffrey and Rob Goodbody speculate as to why so many people are failing to take any interest in the subject. The trio seem to agree with the author, George Marshall, that if people felt their personal happiness depended on it, all would back positive action to respond to climate change. “If we continue to ignore the issue, we will be very unhappy indeed,’’ they wryly add.

They also suggest meaningful action is being avoided because this might be seen as a threat to elite minorities with power over our economy, political process and media outlets.

EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan has issued a “wake-up’’ call to Ireland’s farm/food sectors to reduce emissions. He was responding to an EPA report which found emissions in agriculture rose by 2.7% here last year. We’re currently well short of meeting our EU emissions targets.

Meanwhile, Dublin Bay – Nature and History is a splendid book of national interest. It warns of future flooding in the capital. As sea levels rise, Cork, for example, could be similarly affected. Planning has already started for flood risk management the harbour. Cork city is at growing risk, as are low-lying towns in the harbour. Farming areas upstream in the Lee catchment could also see more flooding due to heavier rainfall.

Margaret Desmond, of UCC, is lead author of one of the latest EPA reports, the first since 2009. She says the impacts of global climate change for Ireland are now more compelling. Trends are clear in temperature and rainfall records as well as in sea level rise and changing ecosystems. The trends will continue, but the effectiveness of global actions to limit global climate change remains a key uncertainty, according to Ms Desmond.


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