Ireland is warming up at twice the rate of the rest of the world on average, according to a new climate change report compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency. Tim O'Brienreports.
The report which analysed meteorological records going back more than 100 years concluded that Ireland warmed up by 0.42 degrees per decade between 1980 and 2004, about twice the levels of increase globally.
Entitled Key Meteorological Indicators of Climate Change in Ireland, the report also warned that the rate of warming in Ireland was still accelerating.
It predicted the main effects of climate change will include more intense rainfall in the north and west, with summer drought in the south and east, fewer frosty days everywhere in winter, and serious impacts on agriculture and flood plain management.
The report also notes population trends which see people moving from the west to the east and warns that the movement is from where drinking water will continue to be naturally plentiful, to where it will not.
While summers will be dryer, the reduction in rainfall in the south and east will be less than the increase in the rainfall increase in the west and north. But the report also notes that climate change in Ireland is leading towards a longer growing season, with potential for new crops and increased production of existing cereal and grass crops.
The report was launched by Minister for Environment John Gormley who said it was further evidence that "the debate on climate change is over". He likened continuing sceptics of climate change to "flat-earthists" and said the Government's climate change "platform" to deliver a 3 per cent annual reduction in CO2 emissions was vital.
According to the report's authors Dr John Sweeney and Dr Laura McElwain of Irish Climate and Analysis Research Units (Icarus) at NUI Maynooth, the analysis means there is no longer any doubt about the cause of global warming.
"We can say with certainty that it is people not nature that is causing global warming" said Dr Sweeney, who added that Ireland was particularly lucky in having written meteorological records which dated back to the reports of 2668 BC and the Annuals of the Four Masters.
Dr McElwain said the intensity and frequency of extreme rainfall - an increase in the number of days when rain falls and an increase in the intensity of the rain - provide a cause for concern as they may have a greater impact on the environment, society and the economy.
Another aspect of climate change in Ireland is likely to be increased and more frequent storm-related flooding, with consequent implications for settlement patterns and development. The report's authors noted that climate change is now one of the key elements that need to be addressed when assessing flood relief measures in Ireland.