Last week Minister Denis Naughten published Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework and announced funding for four Local Authority Regional Climate Action Offices. The offices will plan how Ireland will prepare for, and respond to, the impacts of climate change. While the announcement was welcomed by An Taisce, the environmental organisation pointed to the weakness of last year’s all important National Mitigation Plan which was aimed at addressing Ireland’s high level of climate altering emissions.
The National Adaptation Framework sets out what our climate will be like by 2050. It says that the average annual temperatures will increase by up to 1.7 degrees. There will be decreases in spring and summer rainfall but there will be heavy rainfall events in winter and autumn. These changes will negatively impact our environment, water resources, agriculture and food security, as well as human health. The report states that future flooding events will cost the State more than one billion euro without definite action to tackle the effects of climate change. In launching the report Minister Naughten said that Framework was a “vital step in enabling our transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy and society by 2050”
‘CLIMATE IRELAND’ – AN ONLINE RESOURCE
Under the Framework, Government Departments will be required to prepare Sectoral Adaptation Plans for key sectors including Agriculture, Forestry, Biodiversity, Transport and Flood Risk Management. Local Authorities will also be preparing adaptation strategies. One of the resources that they will use is the online resource ‘Climate Ireland’. The Climate Ireland website describes three different types of adaptation. Adaptation actions can be ‘grey’, that rely on technological or engineering solutions, ‘green’ that make use of nature, and ‘soft’ that aim to alter human behaviour and styles of governance.
So will adaptation be enough? In his research on why certain species of animal survived and others didn’t, the famous biologist Charles Darwin concluded that ‘successful adaptation’ was more important than intelligence or strength. In relation to climate change the major question would seem to be; can we slow climate change to a rate that we can adapt to, or is it happening too fast for the successful adaptation of humanity and other species to be possible?
IRELAND – A LIFEBOAT COUNTRY
The former NASA scientist James Lovelock is pessimistic about the impact of climate change. He once said that climate change means that Ireland will in due course become a “lifeboat country”. This is because of the likelihood that North Africa and Southern Europe will become uninhabitable due to extreme temperatures. People in those areas would want to move to Ireland as our country will have less extreme heat.
Other scientists have the hope that countries will work hard to reduce CO2 emissions in line with the Paris Climate agreement. This would involve significant reductions in use of fossil fuels in transport, homes and industry and also reduction in methane emissions in agriculture. This aim is to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
IRELAND – A CLIMATE LAGGARD
The 2018 Climate Change Performance Index recently ranked Ireland as the worst performing country in Europe in terms of taking concrete action to tackle climate change Last week our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the European Parliament that he is “not proud” of Ireland’s role as a “climate laggard”. John Gibbons, the An Taisce ‘Climate Disruptor’ spokesperson said that without a meaningful National Mitigation Plan, no amount of adaptation is going to be of any use whatever in addressing climate change. In a statement he claims that Ireland is continuing to directly fuel the global climate crisis by failing to rein in our extremely high levels of emissions, and, in doing so, will also indirectly undermine already brittle international climate solidarity. As a policy, he says this is “politically suspect, scientifically bogus and morally bankrupt”.
The challenge ahead for the Government and Local Authorities is to implement the National Adaptation Framework that has just been launched. In addition they and everyone else on the planet need to act to reduce climate altering emissions so that, rather than have frequent disasters to cope with, future generations will be able to ‘adapt’ to climate change.