‘IT never rains but it pours’ is an old saying that we Irish love to recite, given how familiar we are with biblical downfalls. But now, it seems, it never shines, but it blazes. Because no sooner had we got the good weather we have all been craving for months, but now we are being told it is, literally, too good to be true.
When we just got used to understanding the yellow and orange warnings for storms, and thinking we had seen the back of them for another few months, along comes Met Eireann with similar warnings for summertime – this time for heat.
Did we ever think we would find ourselves having to learn how to read the warning symbols for hot weather in Ireland?
But, having watched other areas of the globe sweltering in recent years, and the resultant bush fires devastating communities in Australia and the US, should we even be surprised?
Climatologists have been warning us for years about warming seas and temperatures, and the resultant damage it would cause.
But in Ireland we innocently thought we could escape, being a country that never found the opportunity to complain about hot summers in the past.
As the UK’s national weather service declared its first-ever extreme heat warning on Monday, Bloomberg reported that global warming has now heated the planet about 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels.
While cynics may point to other similar ‘hot years’ or catastrophes, what is different now, scientists say, is that global warming is making these same instances more deadly, and more common.
So there will be more flooding than before, causing more destruction and, similarly, there will be more hot summers, and they will be more dangerous as temperatures continue to create new records.
Apart from the inconvenience that we see regarding warnings to limit sun exposure, reduce water usage and stock up on the Factor 50, there are more serious consequences coming down the tracks.
We are likely to see more wildfires, causing damage not just to homes, but to the ecosystem and threatening a number of wildlife species; we will see more flooding as the ice-caps melt and ocean levels rise; and we will eventually see climate migration as large swathes of the planet become barren.
What is new is the speed at which this is happening. When media reported recently that the floods in central Europe were an indication of what’s ‘to come’, they were checked in their phrasing by climatologists who rightly pointed out that this wasn’t the future – this was now. Global warming has happened, and the climate is changing right before our eyes.
So while we might curse the inconvenience of any impending hose pipe bans, reluctantly add sun cream to the weekly shopping list, and ponder whether we will ever need to book another week in the Canaries, we might also remind ourselves that this is a sign of a much greater problem we need to start understanding. Not in the future, but right now.