Extent of Irish climate crisis laid bare in new environmental report

12 Aug 2021

A storm over the Cliffs of Moher. Image: © Pixly/Stock.adobe.com

The Status of Ireland’s Climate report found that CO2 levels increased by 18pc in just 30 years, alongside a 6pc increase in annual precipitation.

A new report examining the impacts of the climate crisis in Ireland has found that Irish seas are rising, annual temperatures are increasing and rainfall is getting heavier.

The Status of Ireland’s Climate 2020 reported that while these changes are much in line with what’s being seen around the world, there is an urgent need to address them while building on long-term observation programmes and technology.

The report was commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency, Marine Institute and Met Éireann and was prepared by researchers at the MaREI institute in University College Cork. The work builds on a previous analysis that was published in 2013.

The 234-page assessment draws on data from nearly 50 climate variables observed in atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial environments. The authors highlighted that it was essential to not only know likely future changes in Ireland’s climate but to understand their pace.

“As citizens in Ireland and around the world are now seeing the impacts of climate change, through evermore extreme weather events, fires and flooding etc, high-quality observations of the climate are crucial to help inform society’s response to the climate emergency,” said Eoin Moran, director at Met Éireann.

“Scientific long-term monitoring of the climate underpins climate research and the development of climate services which support policy-making and decision-making in the face of the urgency of the climate crisis.”

Ireland’s climate crisis

Measurements of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide all showed increased levels, with the amount of greenhouse gases in the air observed in 2019 being the highest since measurements begun.

Levels of CO2 were estimated to be 50pc higher than those in the pre-industrial era, while nitrous oxide levels were 20pc higher and methane was 170pc higher.

In the short term, CO2 levels in 2018 were 18pc higher than they were in 1990 – an increase that was attributed primarily to increased fossil fuel combustion in the transport and energy industries.

The country is also heating up, with the average temperature having raised by 0.9 degrees Celsius in the last 120 years. Annual precipitation is also on the way up with a 6pc increase in the last 30 years. Meanwhile sea levels have been rising by approximately 2mm to 3mm every year since the early 1990s.

Where to go from here

Some observations showed change is possible, however.

Levels of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have been falling since 2004, which was attributed to the Montreal protocol. Levels of atmospheric sulphur were down by 80pc over a 35-year period due to regulation and technological advances, and nitrogen oxide emissions are also slowing primarily due to improvements at the Moneypoint power plant.

The Status of Ireland’s Climate report emphasised the value of long-term observations in understanding the climate crisis, both at a national and an international level.

It praised the improvements of environmental observational equipment but stressed the need for long-term projects rather than once-off observations.

It also suggested the establishment of a climate data portal that would act as a gateway to information on the national climate observation infrastructure with accompanying repositories of observations, experts and events.

Sam Cox was a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news