This is due to the rising temperature of the planet, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and the melting of glaciers.
And the next five to 15 years is a crucial time period within which to act if we want to halt any permanent changes to the planet.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), climate change is most obvious in our changing sea levels.
“Observed climate change impacts are most evident in the global temperature record, sea-level rise, loss of glaciers and ice sheets and changes in the nature and intensification of precipitation events,” the EPA report states.
“Since 1993, average sea level has risen around Ireland by just over 3cm per decade,” the report reads.
The agency said that Ireland is particularly “vulnerable” to climate change because we are an island country with major cities located close to coastal areas.
The report makes specific reference to the extreme storms experienced over the winter of 2013 and 2014, where the west coast of Ireland was badly affected.
“The 2013/2014 winter wave conditions that severely affected the Atlantic coast of Europe were investigated and it was found that this winter was the most energetic along most of the Atlantic coast since 1948,” the EPA report states.
It is understood that the storms may cause serious changes to the Atlantic coastlines.
“Storm wave conditions such as were encountered during the 2013/2014 winter have the potential to dramatically change the equilibrium state (beach gradient, coastal alignment and nearshore bar position) of beaches along the Atlantic coast of Europe,” the report adds.
In relation to Ireland’s GHGs, we have reduced them considerably but there are some areas where we rapidly need to address our emissions.
Our greenhouse emissions peaked in 2001, but by 2014 they had lowered by 18%.
Fossil fuel combustion is the principal source of emissions. The agriculture sector is the other main source of emissions.
“Between 2014-2020 agriculture emissions are projected to increase by 6-7% and transport emissions are to grow by about 10-16% on 2014’s levels.
“These projections are a cause for significant concern in the context of the anticipated requirements for further reductions of GHG emissions between 2021 and 2030,” states the report.
On a global level, the EPA said we have a very short time frame within which to act before irreversible changes occur top our planet.
“Our actions and responses in the next five to 15 years may effectively lock in large-scale and irreversible planetary changes over this and subsequent centuries,” the report reads.
Last year, when the Paris Agreement to address climate change was signed, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide reached 400 parts per million (ppm), a level that has not occurred for at least 800,000 years.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) described this as unprecedented for centuries to millennia.