THE Environmental Protection Agency has warned that Ireland needs to prepare itself better for the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
The EPA yesterday published "A Summary of the State of Knowledge on Climate Change Impacts for Ireland", an assessment of the current knowledge on climate change and its expected impacts for Ireland.
The report provides what its authors say is a high level assessment of possible impacts for key economic and social sectors in Ireland and identifies a number of "adaptation options" and "gaps in knowledge".
Laura Burke, EPA director of the Office of Climate, Licensing and Resource Use, said: "Climate Change is happening in Ireland. This report sets out the likely impacts of temperature rises, wetter winters and warmer seas on areas as diverse as agriculture, fishing, disease control and infrastructural networks. We need to adapt to climate change and to ensure adaptation actions are environmentally and economically sustainable."
Changes already identified in Irish climate include:
* Air temperature increased by 0.7C since 1890. The increase was 0.4C during the period 1980-2008 which is equivalent to 0.14C per decade. Temperature is expected to rise by 1C to 3C by 2100.
* There has been a significant rise in total rainfall in the north and west. Projected changes include wetter western winters and drier summers in the south-east.
* The frequency of storms has decreased, but the intensity has increased.
Meanwhile, the Government has said it wants to slash harmful greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in one year to meet EU targets.
With just over a month to go until an international climate change conference in Denmark, a new website advises people how to reduce their carbon footprint.
The European Union has already agreed to reduce emissions by a fifth by 2020 and up to 95% by 2050.
Environment Minister John Gormley claimed the level of change needed to meet the radical targets was almost inconceivable. "The sort of change that is required now is, I think for most people, incomprehensible. It would mean huge reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors. These are going to be very onerous targets indeed, but also very necessary."
The website www.1010.ie calls on everybody to sign a pledge supporting the Government’s efforts to secure a deal in Copenhagen and encourages the public to slash their CO2 emissions.
A special Oireachtas committee yesterday unveiled legislation shifting the onus for tackling global warming on to Taoiseach Brian Cowen. The new laws would make the Taoiseach and his successors answerable to the Dáil on what progress Ireland was making to slash its greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Gormley had not read the proposals, but vowed climate change legislation would be introduced by the Government.