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The relentless rain isn’t a blip. Ireland’s climate is now a year-long autumn

For a country so obsessed with the weather, we remain stubbornly uninterested in climate crisis

The data is in and it is grim. Four times more rain than last July; twice the July 2021 rainfall. In the past 12 months, we endured the wettest October on record. The wettest March. The hottest June. The wettest July, by a whopping margin. Thirty-seven rainy days in Mayo. Flash floods in Donegal after 76mm of rain fell on a single day in July. Yellow weather warnings in 19 counties for the August bank holiday weekend. Elsewhere, it was the hottest July on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. This week, the average daily global sea temperature hit its highest level ever of 20.96 degrees.

The immediate explanation for Ireland’s month of misery seems to be that the North Atlantic jet stream has set up camp south of the country and it isn’t budging, which means that those “low pressure systems with associated active weather fronts” are not going anywhere either. El Niño is contributing, as are seasonal factors. But there’s little equivocation any more about the real cause of Ireland’s descent into perma-autumn or of Europe’s skin-stripping heatwave. We are navigating those uncharted territories we were warned about. This is the climate crisis.

Beside raging wildfires and searing heatwaves, or Greek villages locked down in temperatures of 45 degrees, or the record low levels of sea ice in Antarctica, we don’t have a lot to complain about. Not that we let that stop us.

Versions of the sort of joke everyone is making is that if they’d warned us that what we used to benignly call “global warming” – the secretary general of the United Nations António Guterres rightly switched this week to calling it “global boiling” – would mean 37 days of uninterrupted rain in summer, there would by now be an electric car in every driveway and the national diet would be lentil Bolognese.


Every schoolchild learns that Ireland’s climate can be summed up in three words: mild, moist, variable. These days, just one would do: autumn. Extremes are our new norm. The boundaries between seasons are blurring, and each one may see new records smashed. The wettest. The driest. The hottest. The windiest. That may have been the hottest June on record – but it was also conceivably the coolest you’ll ever live through again. Given that July rainfall increased by 22 per cent over a 30-year period, the wettest July could also be the driest you’ll see for a while.

We can’t reverse what is already happening, but we can limit the damage

If only we’d known, we say; but if we didn’t know it is only because we didn’t want to. Climate science – which is the most accurate of the sciences, because it is has to be – has been screaming about this for years. But in Ireland, for a country so obsessed with the weather, we remain stubbornly uninterested in climate. We gawp over reports of the burning Continent and largely ignore the ones about the devastating heatwave happening off our own shores, which saw water temperatures rise four-five degrees above normal. That, physicist Dr Shane Bergin said to me this week, “was our Greece”.

Panicking about the climate crisis – now that we are actually beginning to see what it will mean in reality – would be understandable, if not helpful. Luckily, there’s no chance of that here: we’re too busy checking out the half-price garden furniture in preparation for the prolonged sunny spell we are sure we must be due in August.

Our denial isn’t going to protect us. Met Éireann outlines a series of scenarios for how this might go for Ireland. An increase of global temperatures of 2 degrees would see summer rainfall here decrease overall by 1.18 per cent and winter rainfall increase by 13 per cent – but within that, there will be more chaos, more extremes, more “weather events”.

For every one degree of global warming, the amount of moisture in the atmosphere increases by 7 per cent, its projections state. “As a result, we expect to see an increase in the frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall events.” Compared with continental Europe, which is continuing to warm at twice the rate of the global average, Ireland will get off lightly. Farming will become more difficult. There will be more flooding. Sea levels will rise. It’s small beans in the global scale of things.

Here is the all-important caveat: there is hope and it isn’t too late to act. We can’t reverse what is already happening, but we can limit the damage. Renewable energy generated more electricity than fossil fuels across Europe last year. On the island of Ireland, 39 per cent of electricity came from renewable sources in 2022. By 2030, it should be up to 80 per cent.

But as long as we treat the climate crisis as something caused by someone else happening somewhere else, we will go on missing our carbon reduction targets. If we continue to look on it as a stick to beat the poor farmers with, or a bit of virtue-signalling by the Greens, or something possibly caused by data centres, we let ourselves – and, crucially, our politicians – off the hook. As Muireann Lynch of the ESRI pointed out in these pages recently, carbon reduction has less to do with wind turbines and data centres than with how we get to work or heat our houses or our agricultural emissions. Meanwhile, Kathy Sheridan wrote this week how, in order to benefit from the retrofitting grants available, she would basically have had to rebuild her whole 75-year-old house. Somebody is not joining the dots.

Twenty years of Google data published this week showed that search trends confirm our obsession with the weather. We need to stop talking about the weather and start shouting about climate.