Irish Times view on climate change and extreme weather

Ireland’s vulnerability and lack of preparedness laid bare by Climate Change Advisory Council

It cannot be said yet if Storm Barra was a direct consequence of climate change though attribution science is increasingly able to confirm the extent to which global warming is exacerbating the frequency and ferocity of extreme weather events. What is known, however, is that storms will inevitably take an increasing toll. At the very least, this will be in the form of storm surges in coastal areas and flooding, made worse by rising sea levels due to a hotter global temperature caused by human-induced carbon emissions.

The extent to which this State is ill-prepared for all of this is laid bare in the annual review of the Climate Change Advisory Council. Failures in communications systems, power cuts, flooding and disruption to water supplies this week are a mild indication of future scenarios that risk being made a lot worse by lack of preparedness.

Well into a critical decade where activity must be stepped up to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of an overheating planet, climate action measures are not being deployed fast enough to help slow warming or to protect essential services from the extreme weather it is already causing, the council warns.

In spite of progress and increased ambition over the past year, the council identifies unacceptable gaps in what has been achieved, particularly in cutting emissions – mitigation – and preparing for negative impacts that can no longer be avoided – adaptation.


It puts its finger on flawed thinking. Mitigation is in the main globally driven; a top-down approach with relatively clear metrics, in comparison to adaptive strategies seen as being based on bottom-up considerations. The latter are perceived as being more difficult to implement and monitor and, by their nature, are local or regional. This has also led to a mistaken perception that adaptation science is less urgent, “softer” and more uncertain than its mitigation counterpart.

On top of this is the failure to convert “policy into urgent delivery” that extends from the highest levels of the Government and through most departments. Many actions in the commendable 2019 climate action plan have not been delivered, yet we have doubled national ambition in the latest version adopted this year. The independent body singles out “the lack of a long-term emissions reduction strategy” and missed emissions reduction targets last year; a problem that could persist over the coming decade.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that to achieve Paris Agreement objectives, and to keep average global temperatures to within 1.5 degrees, requires limiting cumulative CO2; reaching at least net-zero, along with strong, rapid and sustained reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions including methane. Ireland is not applying the urgency and governance needed to match that objective.