Ignoring climate change: Heatwave exposes our vulnerability

A great white shark may not have been seen in Kerry or Cork, offshore at least, in recent days but one was recorded in Spanish waters.

Ignoring climate change: Heatwave exposes our vulnerability

A great white shark may not have been seen in Kerry or Cork, offshore at least, in recent days but one was recorded in Spanish waters.

A 5m-long great white was recorded near the Balearic Island of Cabrera, south of Mallorca for the first time in 30 years. The arrival of a great white shark at a resort, no matter how magnificent an animal it may be, is not the kind of added attraction a seaside town might hope for. Peter Benchley’s Satan fish in Jaws holds too powerful, too visceral a grip on our imagination. Whether that fish reached Cabrera because of warming waters, one of the consequences of climate change, is an open question but it seems a reasonable first thought.

The theory advanced by Norwegian Dr Jens Christian Holt (Outdoors, page 14) that an explosion in mackerel stocks has led to the decimation of the bottom-of-the-pyramid food that many species of fish and seabirds depend on is a consequence of climate change too. Species with the same diet as mackerel are in freefall because, according to Dr Holt, they are starving. Vast mackerel stocks are hoovering up the food they depend on. Climate change plays a role in this unbalancing as it has extended the mackerel’s range ever-further northward.

We have, over recent weeks, had just a glimpse of what life might be like if our normally temperate climate became a little less comfortable and a lot, lot drier. So dry in fact that Met Éireann has warned that drought-like conditions will continue. Apart at all from the challenges this poses for households it is significant for two economy-driving industries. The pharma/chemical industry relies on abundant clean water. No water, or even curtailed supplies, and this sector will feel the strain. In extreme circumstances, jobs may be jeopardised. In extreme circumstances, the Government’s budget planning may be jeopardised, as these manufacturers make huge contributions to tax revenues. For farmers carrying high stock numbers, or even normal stock numbers, water is essential. For tillage farmers or cattle farmers trying to grow winter feed it is a longed-for necessity.

These reactions may seem pessimistic but are they? Can we be sure this is not the new normal climatologists have predicted for decades? Has our scepticism on climate change, have our governments’ dangerously underwhelming preparations left us far more vulnerable than we should be? Are we not ashamed to be second worst in EU on trying to avert climate change? The flat-earthers may find wriggle room in that argument but the indictment around water is, well, watertight. Decades of neglect means Irish Water is forced to warn that in Dublin demand outstrips supply and a hosepipe ban is in force from today. The agency has also warns that more than 100 water schemes outside Dublin are “at risk”.

Those who campaigned so passionately against water charges will not offer a solution to this crisis today. Neither will they make any plausible proposals when the Shannon floods, as it inevitably will in early winter. Enjoyable as the heatwave may be it is also a warning that wishful thinking on climate change, and especially water supplies, is not only stupid but it is also dangerous.

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