Flooding will threaten more than 8,500 Dublin buildings, climate summit hears

Damaged areas would be concentrated in an area around the mouth of the river Liffey

A three-dimensional data visualisation indicates, in a “business as usual” climate scenario, more than 8,500 buildings in Dublin will be at risk of coastal flooding by 2100 as a consequence of increasing global warming over the century.

Damaged areas would include hotels, museums, the city's financial services district, private property and energy suppliers, notably power stations – concentrated in an area around the mouth of the river Liffey, according to the climate technology company Cervest.

Using its advanced data visualisation capabilities, their image released at Dublin Climate Summit on Thursday shows the most likely locations that will be affected by coastal flooding in Dublin’s central area close to the Liffey and at the estuary, to an average depth of 1.7 metres – this is based on a mid-range prediction of likely sea-level rise by climate scientists.

The visualisation demonstrates that if left unabated, the magnitude and the consequences of inaction on a local level would have a devastating effect on cityscapes and infrastructures, creating negative economic and social consequences, Cervest said.

“It reinforces the importance of keeping global heating to a minimum and that the places we know and take for granted as ‘permanent fixtures’, are today part of a fragile and interconnected system that is being transformed by climate change,” it added.

The image considers only risk associated with coastal flooding but when other climate hazards were added, such as extreme heat and wind stress. increasingly larger areas of Dublin will be affected, it noted.

If mitigation policies, such as making good on national emissions reduction commitments, deforestation pledges and implementing mandatory legislation on reporting standards are applied in the near future, this scenario might change, it accepted.

“Even so, there is a lot of inertia already in place based on prior climate events and human actions (and inactions), so damages are inevitable. Even if we reach net-zero [EMISSIONS]tomorrow, physical risk is already locked into our system due to past actions.”

Globally, physical assets worth $2.5 trillion were already at risk from climate change, the summit was told, while economic losses associated with climate change are expected to rise to $23 trillion by 2050.

While achieving net-zero was now essential; "business and governments can no longer afford to ignore "physical risk"; the impact of climate change at a physical asset level", said Cervest founder and chief executive Iggy Bassi.

“You don’t need to be a climate scientist to understand this powerful image. It makes a global problem relatable on a local level. My city is going to look like this … unless we take action,” he underlined.

“Cervest’s science-backed climate intelligence enables a view of connected assets across multiple scales. Using these insights, decisions can be made across multiple timeframes, climate hazards and emissions scenarios. Pinpointing where we are most vulnerable is the first step in reducing our exposure to climate risk,” he added.

The conference is looking at the emerging role of climate intelligence in measuring climate risk and mitigation, and how global firms are managing climate-related financial risk, including Ireland’s approach to climate-related disclosure regulations.

Meanwhile in advance of the summit, Friends of the Earth called on the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and other Ministers speaking at the conference to reject its limited focus on investment in questionable far-off technologies and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Speakers included Wall Street investors and private equity firms, including a director of Blackstone which have been accused of financing destruction of the Amazon rainforest, exacerbating the climate crisis through fossil fuel investments and supporting the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline, it added.

FoE said a spotlight must be shone on such high-profile Government engagement with global investors and is raising questions regarding the sustainability credentials of the companies involved.

The environmental NGO questioned the focus on technologies “that could distract attention away from the need to rapidly end the fossil fuel era and cut emissions at source”.

FoE head of policy Jerry Mac Evilly said: "It's time to demand real emission reductions now, not wait for far-off carbon unicorns. New technologies are evidently necessary but depending on investment in unproven technologies, like CCS, will not deliver near-term emissions reductions and risks a lock-in to ever-increasing fossil fuels.

"We must rapidly stop using fossil fuels. The Taoiseach and Government must pay heed to warnings from UN secretary general Antonio Gutteres who highlighted fossil fuel interests are now 'cynically' using the war in Ukraine to lock in a high carbon future, noting 'the world is in a race against time. We cannot afford slow movers, fake movers or any form of greenwashing'," he said.

Mr MacEvilly added: "The Russian invasion and associated gas crisis has only served to highlight the dangers of Ireland's fossil fuel dependence and the need for further coordinated action to help those struggling to pay their energy bills. Ireland must be clear that private investment must focus on immediate emission reductions and be underpinned by mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence obligations on companies."

The major risk was that the Government limits its focus to investment “in far-off and questionable technologies”, which facilitate expansion in fossil fuel infrastructure, instead of demanding investment in real solutions that will help reduce emissions and help households right now, such as energy-saving measures, he said.