Thursday 12 December 2019

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A change has to come

Wednesday, 13th November, 2019 5:00pm

Former RTÉ weather forecaster Gerard Fleming has been a familiar, friendly and jolly figure, familiar to us all. He has predicted the weather for us for years on RTÉ, often finishing broadcasts with a cheeky wink.

He was back on our screens on Monday night on RTÉ but there was no winking this time.

He presented a starkly named show called ‘Will Ireland Survive 2050?’ with environmental scientist Cara Augustenborg. Together they looked at the implications of extreme weather and climate change for Ireland.

The show paints a bleak picture of the myriad of ways in which Ireland will be different and worse off in 30 years, due to these changes.

Sadly, there was a very strong Cork focus to the show, which looked at the issues that will be caused by rising sea levels. Sea levels are expected to rise by 50cm by 2050 and 80cm by 2100, as the planet continues to warm, meaning polar regions continue to melt.

According to Dr Barry O’Dwyer, a UCC climate adaptation scientist: “In the case of a city like Cork, that’s very significant. We have to think about an increase in frequency of intense precipitation events.”

Visualisations on the show showed the striking effects of increased sea levels with large parts of the city centre underwater.

“You can imagine we’d have increased levels of water coming down the Lee and on top of that we will have a sea level rise plus a storm surge. Events that are currently considered extreme, in terms of flooding in the city, will become more and more regular. Possibly a one in 100 year event will become a one in 20 year event or a one in ten year event, maybe on a yearly basis.”

These are scenarios that are going to happen so planning is vital. The UCC scientist added: “We need to consider what the worst scenario might be, and on that basis, think about what level of risk are we willing to accept. Do we want to plan our cities for a one metre sea level rise or more?”

That’s a great question at a time when there’s a huge debate on future flood defences in this city.

There were many more Cork and Cork-based contributors to the show including oceanographer Dr Gerard McCarthy, environmental scientist and Kinsale resident Dr Tara Shine and Catherine Sheridan of Gas Networks Ireland, who all had interesting contributions.

On Tuesday on RTÉ One, in a kind of partner show, Phillip Boucher-Hayes looked at the biggest areas that have been addressed to meet the emissions reduction targets that Ireland has signed up to in ‘Hot Air-Ireland’s Climate Crisis’.

In the end, we will all have to make major sacrifices to mitigate the worst effects of rising sea levels and climate change. Successive governments have failed to do anything substantial.

The quicker we act, the less we have to pay and the less devastation we have to deal with. So what are we waiting for?

As Phillip Boucher-Hayes said on social media: “If there is one thing to take away from #HotAir about what the science says is possible, it’s this…we can solve the problem. We just have to choose to do it.”

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