‘Invest in electric’: Irish Times readers have their say on climate change solutions

Readers give their opinions on polluting emissions, energy usage and agricultural reform

As Ireland ramps up its efforts to combat the effects of climate change, we asked readers to have their say on the solutions to the problem. Photograph: iStock

As Ireland ramps up its efforts to combat the effects of climate change, we asked readers to have their say on the solutions to the problem. Photograph: iStock

 

Last month we asked readers to have their say on what can be done to respond to climate change, from small individual steps to larger State-level actions.

The impacts of climate change are becoming clear in Ireland. Between 1989 and 2019, rainfall here increased by 6 per cent, and 15 of our warmest years on record have taken place since 1990. In short, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. In response, the Government has introduced the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development legislation with a legally binding mid-term objective of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 51 per cent by 2030, from a 2018 starting point. Meeting these targets will require an average 7 per cent emissions reduction every year. The coming months with also see responses to climate change discussed at the UN Climate summit Cop26 in Glasgow.

Below is a selection of your responses on possibly the most pressing set of issues facing humanity in the modern era.

We would like to hear more views on what you think can and should be done to try and respond to climate change. You can share your views using the form below.

A selection of responses may continue to be published on irishtimes.com, and/or in print.

If you are reading this on The Irish Times app, please click here to access the form.

Incentives and disincentives

Transport emissions are of huge concern from a climate and health perspective. The only way to reduce emissions in a meaningful way before 2030 is to penalise and discourage car usage.

No other country in Europe has such a love affair and addiction to cars as Ireland does. Average journeys are less than walking distances. However, electric vehicles (EVs) and building public transport are not the panacea.

EVs still incur carbon emissions from the electricity, which in Ireland is still circa 60 per cent from fossil fuels. Switching to EVs will be vastly expensive for the nation and will not occur in a timely manner without radical measures such as banning sales of new internal combustion engine (ICE) cars from 2025.

Building more public transport is the right thing to do. However, it will not come on time. Look at how Dublin’s MetroLink has failed to be delivered by successive governments which have instead taken the easy political route and spent tens of billions on roads which are congested and facilitate fragmented urban communities.

In addition, public transport will not get drivers to suddenly switch to cycling or walking to a bus or Luas unless they are disincentivised from using cars.

Greater use of low-traffic neighbourhoods, cycle infrastructure and safe routes to school must be prioritised. This has to be supported by legislation that allows local authorities to build infrastructure without significant delays and interference by vested interests, vocal politically connected interest groups etc.

Sadly, for 30 years, Ireland has prioritised the movement of people by car, with cars getting bigger and safer for their occupants, to the detriment of all other travellers.

The right to work from home should be actively encouraged through legislation. It is a vital component in reducing emissions in the short term. A recent survey in my workplace showed that 60 per cent of staff drove to work, spending an average of 90 minutes a day in their cars travelling 71km.

The carbon emissions saved by working from home just one day a week in a department of 120 was 34 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Sadly less than 4 per cent walked or cycled to work.

Tell us: What would you like to see happen in response to climate crisis?

A scrappage scheme for cars (eg second cars in two-car households) with a grant towards e-cargo bikes has to be implemented. The current Bike to Work scheme is not equitable and is designed for middle-income leisure cyclists. It is not open to students, unemployed, pensioners etc, the people who can least afford to buy a car. The scheme should be scrapped and replaced with grants open to all. We need 1 million bikes on our roads, not 1 million cars in the next nine years.

The Government should be doing more to promote and incentivise the right behaviours, and more importantly, disincentivising the wrong behaviours. Mark Langton, Ireland

Climate double-think

Society and the media have all made strides in talking more about the climate issue, but it is still too often confined within its own silo. Simultaneously and uncritically celebrating the resumption of climate-damaging activities (eg transatlantic flights) is a dangerous form of double-think that needs to be overcome, so that individual actions and impacts are more clearly linked in popular consciousness.

By all means celebrate the joy of transatlantic family reunifications, but the climate impacts (in this case, of more or fewer flights) must begin to feature equally in the very same articles. Patrick Quinlan, London

Ban electric cars

There should be a complete ban on battery-powered private cars. Building these cars costs the same in resources and carbon footprint as ICE cars.

The batteries are highly toxic with a very limited life span. There are no plans on how to recycle these toxic batteries and they are an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

Also, as most electricity is produced from fossil fuels, they do little or nothing for the environment. Taking electricity from the grid and putting it into batteries before using it is massively inefficient. Public transport and community-owned cars is the way forward. Replacing ICE cars with battery-powered monstrosities is just stupid. John Treacy, Ireland

Invest in electric

We need to focus on what we can do individually to reduce our reliance on and usage of energy.

Ireland must have the potential to use solar, wind and hydropower to create electricity, and homes need to be retrofitted using government incentives to improve energy efficiency. There also needs to be supports to encourage the replacement of gas boilers with heat pumps.

A helicopter dropping water on a wildfire in Calafornia, USA, in 2020. Photograph: iStock
A helicopter dropping water on a wildfire in Calafornia, USA, in 2020. Photograph: iStock

Petrol and diesel cars need to be replaced using incentive schemes over next 20 years. Charging infrastructure is needed to keep electric vehicles on the road, including delivery trucks. The tax system should be adapted to charge for road use based on demand. For example, a 4am trip on the M50 would be cheaper than a 9am journey.

We also need to invest in an electric rail system and argue through the UN and EU for other states to travel in this direction as well.

Finally, air travel must be priced to reduce the damage caused by aircraft emissions and encourage innovation away from fossil fuel-powered aircraft. Michael McAree, Belfast

Air and smoke pollution

It would be a big help if the Irish Government and all environmental and public health authorities looked at the issue of air and smoke pollution in the context of climate change in Ireland, both of which are inextricably linked and unacceptably ignored. Eamonn O’Toole

National Grid

I would like to see all State/private institutions and dwellings having solar panels installed and being connected to the national grid to contribute to the energy needs of the State.

I would like to see all public and common land planted with oxygen-producing trees. Every household in the country ought to be given a tree sapling for their garden or have it planted on their behalf to form a local woodland or forest.

I would like to see increased public (electrified) transport that meets the needs of the people, such as more trains at busy commuting times.

I would like to see congestion charges applied to Dublin. I would like to see areas in central Dublin pedestrianised, giving the city back to the people to facilitate outdoor dining and entertainment opportunities for an increased quality of life.

I would like all councils to designate land for people to grow their own fruit and vegetables. I would also like to see a complete ban on all single-use plastics.

Along with this, all bottles and jars should be returnable to shops/supermarkets for an exchange of 50 cents. All institutions and workplaces should have EV charging stations. I would like to see household wind turbines installed – as seen throughout the United States – which would supply the needs of housing and contribute to the national grid.

I would like increased vegetarian options made available in all workplaces, encouraging the population to decrease meat consumption. I would like all our polluted waterways cleaned up, and marine life to thrive in all our rivers, streams and lakes. These are just a few of the things that I would like to see implemented to reduce carbon and other damaging pollutants, help reverse the damage of climate change, and improve our quality of life. It will require significant financial and political commitments and social action, but I think it is imperative for our and our children’s futures. Jason Melia-O’Brien

Deforestation

I am a migrant originally from Turkey, living and working in Ireland. I believe the real consequences of climate change impacting the lives of people everywhere makes it a global problem, and there are specific and general issues that need tackling. I have visited the region of Marmaris in southwestern Turkey. Nothing could have prepared me for the size of the forest destroyed and the scale of devastation, not just to trees and wildlife, but also to the people who earn their living from farming, bee-keeping and tourism. Marmaris is surrounded by some of the country’s biggest forests and natural parks, with a diverse ecosystem.

The Government has introduced the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development legislation with a legally binding mid-term objective of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 51 per cent by 2030, from a 2018 starting point. Photograph: iStock
The Government has introduced the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development legislation with a legally binding mid-term objective of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 51 per cent by 2030, from a 2018 starting point. Photograph: iStock

Forest fires have devastated this region. Due to climate change, abnormal temperatures cooked the soil to the point of igniting fires. For the victims of forest fires and floods, climate change and its consequences are not an academic discussion any more. The problem we are facing today is political. In recent weeks the Greek Islands were on fire too. It is not easy for people living through such disasters to get organised and build campaigns. But we have time and we must get organised.

Not only did we lose vast forest land, but we have suddenly emitted massive amounts of carbon from the burning trees. There are systematic issues that need to be tackled in order to stop climate change. Governments, including the Turkish government, know the dangers of climate change but they are deeply committed to the system that causes it: capitalism.

The Covanta waste-to-energy plant in Ringsend, Co Dublin. Photograph: iStock
The Covanta waste-to-energy plant in Ringsend, Co Dublin. Photograph: iStock

Recent fires in Canada, Australia, Turkey and Greece can’t be a coincidence. The system is burning our forests. We must change it, we must change the system based on profit and exploitation of humans and our ecosystem. Memet Uludag, Dublin

Urban agriculture

I would like to see urban agriculture initiatives such as allotments, community gardens, urban farms and urban orchards in every urban area. Eight local authorities in Ireland do not provide any community growing spaces at all, therefore, there is a need for a systematic review on how these are introduced and rolled out. Other European countries already provide more allotments and community gardens per capita and protect these spaces in a much better manner. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change supports urban agriculture initiatives as being beneficial for climate change. Ireland needs a systematic change on how community growing spaces are delivered. Dónal McCormack, Ireland

We would also like to hear your views on what you think can and should be done to try and respond to climate change. You can also share your views using this form.

A selection of responses may continue to be published on irishtimes.com, and/or in print.

Thank you.


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