Polar Ice Caps

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT AND WHAT’S HAPPENING TO THEM?

Greenland (near the North Pole) and Antarctica (South Pole) are home to most of the world’s glacial ice, including its only two ice sheets. Glaciers and ice sheets have been appearing in the news quite frequently in the past few years as they are increasingly unstable due to global warming. Just before Christmas it was reported that the Thwaites Glacier in the Antarctic, which is the widest glacier in the world and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Doomsday Glacier’, could collapse in as little as five years. Candice Moen has a closer look at our earth’s ice.

THE HISTORY OF ICE ON EARTH

There have been many ice ages on earth, most of them long before humans made their first appearance. These ice ages would have ranged from “comparatively mild” to “so severe that the entire Earth froze over for tens or even hundreds of millions of years”. Looking back over the history of these ice ages, the planet seems to have three main settings: ‘greenhouse’, when tropical temperatures extend to the poles and there are no ice sheets at all; ‘icehouse’, when there is some permanent ice, although its extent varies greatly; and ‘snowball’, in which the planet’s entire surface is frozen over. During the different greenhouse, icehouse and snowball there was ice present in various different locations across the earth’s surface.

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Climate Action Plan

WILL WE BE LEADERS OR LAGGARDS IN IMPLEMENTING IT?

Ireland has been described in recent years as a ‘climate laggard’ because of our country’s failure to meet commitments on EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. Recently the Irish Government launched its new Climate Action Plan. It sets out how all of us in this country will play our part in the global effort to keep global warming to less than 1.5°C.Scientists say that warming above this level will increase the risk of climate chaos and significant suffering for humanity. Liam Murtagh sets out the key elements of Ireland’s Climate Action Plan and considers what is needed to ensure that the plan is implemented successfully.

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What will Monaghan’s Climate look like in the future?

On the 6th January, 1839, 175 years ago, Co Monaghan and the rest of Ireland experienced a hurricane. The 1993 book ‘The Big Wind’ by Peter Carr describes in detail the devastation caused. The  Northern Standard carried reports  in its first edition which was just published just four days later.  Our recent storms have not been quite as severe as the one in 1839. Nevertheless it has focused our attention on the type of weather that  climate scientists are predicting that we will experience  in the  coming years. 

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Why Keeping Honeybees is Now Needed More Than Ever

MEG member and novice beekeeper Liam Murtagh says that our ecosystem including many farm crops are at risk due to the decline in the number of bees, so he is encouraging more people to consider keeping honeybees.

bee

Top bar beehive with a removable viewing window cover

Have you seen many bees so far this year? Most likely you will have seen only a few bumble bees, as the weather has not been favourable for the honeybee. In fact many colonies of honeybees have not survived the winter and in my own case I lost one of my two colonies. Many fellow beekeepers in Ireland have had significant losses as have beekeepers throughout Europe.

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Rebellion Week Protest (October 2019)

On Tuesday 12th October 2019 local activists from Transition Monaghan and other groups staged a “die in” at The Diamond as a local action during Rebellion Week. A “die in” is a peaceful protest where participants lie on the ground for a period of time symbolizing humanity’s future fate if we don’t act on the climate crisis asap.

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Conference on ‘Climate Justice: What Can We Do?’

MEG member Liam Murtagh went along recently to a conference on Climate Justice hosted by Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) and organised by the Drogheda based development education group ‘Development Perspectives’. While initially setting out the extent of the global challenges of climate change and climate justice and the lack of action to address them, the conference presenters went on to focus on some practical responses in the education field in Ireland.

Main speakers at the Climate Justice conference were l to r:John Sweeney, Climatologist, NUI Maynooth, Ann Cleary, DkIT Green-CampusCommittee and Elaine Nevin, Eco UNESCO.

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Monaghan Marchers Brave Storm to Join Worldwide Campaign for a Safer Climate

On the eve of the UN Summit on climate change in Paris (COP21), hundreds of thousands of people marched to demand action on climate change in cities across the globe. Among the estimated crowd of 5,000 in Dublin, was a number of people who made the journey on a bus organised by Transition Monaghan, despite adverse weather conditions.

climate march

Climate campaigners from Monaghan pictured outside the Custom House at the start of last Sunday’s Climate March in Dublin.    

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Potential of small biogas plants to produce energy and compost

We have a renewable energy source which is largely untapped in Ireland.  Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is a great story to tell.  It takes slurry and surplus agri waste as well as certain types of waste currently sent to landfill and turns it into renewable energy. It also produces an organic fertiliser. The technology is proven and widely used across Europe.  Here are some questions and answers about AD and its potential use in Ireland.

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Developing Community Resilience

Co Monaghan was lucky to escape the worst effects of  last week’s storm that hit the whole country.  Developing community resilience is now regarded as important in helping deal with various types of emergencies that affect communities.

Floods at Lough Muckno

While we had a few fallen trees and slates from the recent storm, there was  unfortunately  the loss of of person’s life in the Midlands. For some people in other parts of Ireland there were power outages for a few days while others were left with no telephone or broadband services.   The utility companies and some local authority and emergency services staff had to come out in the adverse weather to respond to the urgent situations that had arisen.

So what happens if communities are faced with emergencies be they from a natural or manmade diaster.  A lot depends on the level of ‘community resilience’. ‘Cultivate’, the practical sustainability organisation, which is based in Cloughjordan, has been working on ways that community resilience can be developed.  Davie Philip of Cultivate defines community resilience as the capability of communities to hold together, learn, adapt and maintain their ability to function in response to change. These changes can be sudden or slowly evolving. Davie sees the biggest challenge being our mind-set. Most of us don’t realise that we are never more than three days from running out of food – except you might only have a few days extra in your cupboard.   Co-sufficiency rather than self-sufficiency is advocated. He sees the GIY (Grow it Yourself) movement and the increasing number of allotment projects as very welcome as they are examples of ways in which more people can have their own local food and also the skills to produce it – and so be more resilient. Developing community resilience can also be an enjoyable experience as people come together to share various skills and enjoy the fun and celebrations that form part of community projects.

The online UK book ‘Exploring Resilience in times of Rapid Change’ is a useful resource for communities looking at community resilience. It draws on the experience of emergency responses such as in the case of Hurricane Katrina in the US and explores the development of four key features of resilient communities: (1) healthy and engaged people. (2) an inclusive culture creating a positive sense of place.(3) a localising economy – towards sustainable food, shelter, housing shelter etc. (4) strong links to other places and communities.  In recent years the use of social media has also been found to be extremely useful in helping communities in emergency situations.

In emergencies, individuals and of course our national and local authorties also have  important roles to play. In a severe storm,  individuals and families can be without power for many days.  Heating and cooking become impossible or at least challenging for many of us. If we have a gas cooker or solid fuel stove (with no back boiler) it means we can boil some water. In order to be prepared for a storm it is advisable to have roof slates checked and also to a arrange for a professional assessment of tall trees that are near the house or roadside to see that  they are not likely to be blown down in a storm.  There are useful tips on tree safety in the ‘Roads / Severe Weather Information’ section of the  Cork Co Council website www.corkcoco.ie. Detailed guidance on flooding can be found at www.flooding.ie while  www.winterready.ie has useful guidance on dealing with adverse winter weather in the following contexts:  home, road safety, health matters, schools, farming community and businesses.  Businesses are directed to the Forfás document on ‘Business Continuity Planning in Severe Weather’.

The national authorities and volunteer support workers also play a major role in responding to emergencies. The website www.emergencyplanning.ie details the Irish Government’s plans for dealing with major emergencies. In the North East there is an inter-agency Regional Steering Group that has been formed for the Major Emergency Region of the North East.  Monaghan Co Council has details on emergency planning on its website (under Fire & Building Control Section) including the ‘Preparing for Major Emergencies handbook’. In relation to the threat of a nuclear incident the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland’s website (www.rpii.ie) describes the National Plan for Nuclear Emergencies.

The ‘Emergency Planning Society’ (www.the–eps.org) is an international organisation of emergency planning professionals and it has a branch in Ireland.  Here in Ireland we also have our Civil Defence which in emergency situations supports Government agencies and the Emergency Services. It is a volunteer based organisation with 4,500 volunteers. For further details or to enquire about enrolling see www.civildefence.ie.

At various levels – be it at individual, family, community, business, local authority, national or international there is a need to have certain preparations in place to deal with emergencies. There are certain situations that we cannot prepare for. However there are ones, be they unexpected or slowly developing, that we can have certain strategies, plans, expertise, skills and resources in place to help our response ‘in the event of an emergency’.