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Ireland weathers climate change

Ireland
The Irish Times
17/08/2010

EXTREME HEAT and destructive fires in Russia; millions made homeless by floods in Pakistan and damaging climate events throughout the world should make Irish people thankful for their temperate climate. Sure, last winter brought an unusually icy spell. And flooding in low-lying areas made life miserable for tens of thousands of people. But nobody drowned.

Since then, plans have been laid by public agencies to minimise the effects of extreme weather events. But, with climate change now an “unequivocal reality” according to international scientists, all that can be hoped for is that adverse impacts can be minimised in future.

Here in Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency has forecast a reduction in the frequency of extreme winter rainfall events, but an increase in their intensity. That is likely to give rise to flash flooding. The average air temperature has risen by almost half a degree within the past 30 years, mainly because of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity. These changes, along with rising sea levels, will bring wetter winters and warmer seas. They will affect agriculture, fisheries, disease control and such infrastructure as transport systems, electricity and telecommunications.

The worst economic recession since the 1930s has cut the production of greenhouse gases worldwide. It has done what governments of developed countries, in particular, were unwilling to undertake. But it is likely to represent a temporary pause unless new emission limits are agreed at a UN conference on climate change in Mexico this autumn. Climate change threatens everybody. Citizens of developing countries who contributed least to the problem, however, are likely to suffer most. This summer, we have witnessed the impact of severe flooding on the peoples of Pakistan and China. Eastern Europe was also affected. And the latest worldwide meteorological data suggest that 2010 may become the hottest year on record.

Ireland signed up for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, but successive governments dragged their feet in promoting renewable sources and imposing a carbon tax. That is now changing. A carbon tax is in place and efforts are being made to reduce our 90 per cent dependence on imported fossil fuels by promoting competition and alternative energy sources. The objective is to generate one-third of our energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.

There are costs involved. A 5 per cent hike in the price of electricity has been authorised by Government from October 5th. This charge will cover the cost of supporting renewable energy and peat-fired generating stations. It is a bad time, in terms of economic difficulties and high unemployment, to introduce this charge. But our electricity system has to be restructured in order to ensure a future supply at reasonable cost. Fossil fuel prices are certain to rise as the world economy recovers. By switching to wind, wave and tidal energy now, we can start to decouple greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth and create a spin-off effect in terms of new technologies and job creation.

 

The news content in this section is responsibility of the information agencies and does not necessarily reflect the position of the Government of Mexico on this or other related topics.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.

    

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