This second report on how Ireland’s climate is changing was published by the EPA, Met Eireann and the Marine Institute following on the IPCC report last week. It states that Ireland is getting wetter and warmer due to climate change and that sea levels on the coast are rising.
- Temperatures have risen by 0.9˚C in the past 120 years and 15 of the 20 warmest years recorded have occurred in the last 30 years.
Greenhouse gasses continue to rise in the atmosphere with an increase of 50% in carbon dioxide concentrations, a170% increase in methane and an increase of 20% in nitrous oxide since pre-industrial times. 90% of these gasses are absorbed by the oceans but it is changing them. They are warmer, more acidic and sea levels are rising as result of melting glacial ice. Ocean acidification impacts on ocean biodiversity as is evidenced by the greater numbers of potentially harmful phytoplankton species being recorded.
- Sea levels around Ireland has risen by 2-3mm per year since the 1990s and sea surface temperatures recorded at Malin Head are 0.46˚C higher over that past 10 years.
Rising sea levels poses a significant risk to coastal cities as it could damage critical infrastructure, housing, wastewater infrastructure and result in saltwater intrusion into freshwater supplies.
- Annual precipitation was 6% higher in the last 30 years than it was in the 30 years before that.
There is a trend towards wetter winters with more intense storms and while Flood Risk Management planning is being undertaken by the Office of Public Works (OPW), drier summers suggests that drought planning should also be undertaken. While river flows are generally increasing recent observations note a reduction in the south and east.
River discharge rates are very sensitive to climate conditions and while there is variation recorded over different periods of time, trends suggest that river discharge rates are increasing in the midlands and west of the country and that discharge rates are decreasing in the south and east in some rivers. Lower discharges can concentrate pollutants and will impact negatively on biodiversity.
Land cover monitoring shows no change in the amount of agricultural lands currently covering almost 68% of the country. Forest and semi-natural vegetation areas have increased their extent by almost 30% over the last three decades.
- Wetlands including peatlands, cover 15% of the country, representing a decrease of almost 20% since 1990. Protecting peatlands and wetlands is important for water quality, flood attenuation, biodiversity protection and to reduce GHG emissions.
Artificial surfaces, which are linked to urbanisation, cover less than 3% of the country; however, there has been an almost 65% increase compared with 1990.
Mary Robinson reporting in the Irish Times 14/8/21 states that ‘leaders need to show they understand the seriousness of the science and respond with stronger national commitments’. On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Ned Dwyer, an author on the report, said it will take a collective effort to ensure the change required to reduce carbon emissions is effected but it will be possible.
The full report is available at