Be prepared for climate change


Sir, – Peter Gorman (December 18th) makes two arguments in favour of adaptive rather than preventative approaches to climate change.

He first reminds us that the global climate constantly changes over time, as “a moment’s reflection” will confirm.

It doesn’t take much more reflection to recognise that the current emergency is specific to a man-made change of the climate, caused by the release into the atmosphere of hundreds of millions of years worth of stored carbon in the space of a few generations. We now have copious evidence that this climate change period has indeed been caused by humans and can also be ameliorated by humans. The aim is not to prevent all natural climate cycles, but rather this current anthropogenic cycle.

Mr Gorman then refers to Ireland’s physical and population size to demonstrate what he sees as the futility of any actions in this sphere taken by Ireland.

This ignores the major advantage of, and role for, small countries in the fight against climate change: our size allows us to enact major changes much more expeditiously than our larger neighbours.

We can, therefore, road-test policies such as revenue-neutral carbon tax, which can then be more easily adopted by larger countries who will be able to cite successful precedents.

Mr Gorman also balks at “costly, large-scale” actions which he sees as futile in an Irish context. He forgets that many climate mitigation measures are beneficial (increased national fuel efficiency reduces fossil fuel importation costs; better planning and public transport enhance all communities). He also forgets that preventative measures now will be incalculably less costly than adaptation measures later, in both economic and human terms.

When our children and grandchildren ask us what we did to counter this existential threat, I would rather we are in a position to say that we leveraged our small size to demonstrate to the world smart and effective harm reduction policies, rather than hid behind it as a craven excuse for doing nothing. – Yours, etc,


Navan, Co Meath.