The station’s Science Squad programme last night catalogued how Ireland is to be hit with much more extreme weather in the next 50 years, with intense heatwaves, flooding, and storms expected.
The popular forecaster has been reading out the same old variations of our mild, rainy climate for the past three decades, but he said last night that future generations were set to be hit with dramatic changes to our largely uneventful weather patterns
“In my lifetime, in what I’ve left to me on this Earth, I will probably see some changes, but my children [really will] see changes and my grandchildren will see big changes,” he said.
“I’m concerned we’re not leaving the generations following us — these are people alive now, not some people far in the future — the same sort of pleasant atmosphere and climate that we’ve enjoyed in the later part of the 20th and first part of the 21st century.
“Some of the changes that are going to happen now, we’ve gone beyond the point where we can reverse them, and we need to learn how to live with them.”
Mr Fleming told the programme that the severe weather which battered the coast last year was “quite amazing”. He said: “We suddenly got these Atlantic storms which lasted eight weeks. We had eight major storms from mid-December to mid-February. If we look at the rainfall for the winter months, it was record-breaking in many parts of the country.”
Frank McGovern, the head of climate change research at the Environmental Protection Agency, told the series that future climate model simulations from 2021 to 2060 show Ireland’s climate will “change remarkably over the next number of decades”.
“Things are going to get warmer and wetter. We could experience very intense heatwaves which causes all sorts of problems in terms of difficulty with animals on farms and difficulty for humans vulnerable to extremes.
“We are going to get more intense rainfall, particularly in the winter months and we see changes of up to 20% occurring, which is a really massive increase in what is already a wet season for us.”
And he said the country shouldn’t be lulled into the false notion that climate changes will bring long, hot summers.
“Really we shouldn’t say that Ireland is going to have a Mediterranean climate. Ireland will never have a Mediterranean climate.”
He said cities like Limerick and Cork will be increasingly vulnerable to flooding.
“The combination of high tides and more intense storm systems — and there are indications we will be impacted by more intense storm systems — those vulnerabilities that we saw would be exacerbated.”
He said Ireland was currently heading towards the worst-case scenario in terms of climate change, but that could be changed by action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
“So we have to move onto a pathway of low emissions and reduced reliance on fossil energy, and to where we manage our land [in such a way as to] enhance uptake of carbon from the atmosphere, [so that] by 2050, a country like Ireland will effectively be carbon neutral.”
He said the warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) can make grim reading.
“I have to be optimistic but every so often, you do a get a shock when you see the reality. When the IPCC says to you, normal human function may be compromised, it becomes scary.”