CLIMATE change is not something of the future – it is happening right now, says Kinsale-based environmental adviser Dr Tara Shine.
Dr Shine has echoed calls for collective action to avert the worst impacts of climate change, following the publication this week of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The IPCC’s assessment on climate change has found that it is ‘widespread, rapid and intensifying.’
For Ireland, the report predicts more intense heatwaves and increased flooding as temperatures rise. Some changes, such as the rise of sea levels, are irreversible and in low-lying places, like Cork, this could result in greater flooding.
‘The changes we see to the climate are unprecedented and are caused by us,’ said Dr Shine. ‘The good news is there is an opportunity to avoid really dangerous climate change if we act – right now – and reduce our pollution, and our carbon emissions, in particular.’
Dr Shine said the report clarified what we already know. ‘The question is what are we going to do. Are we, as humanity, going to change fast enough to protect our future?
‘It is not about protecting the atmosphere, or something intangible. It is about protecting ourselves from floods, coastal erosion, heatwaves, food insecurity and water shortages,’ she told The Southern Star.
She said the IPCC report is a stark reminder that the window for action on climate change is closing.
‘It shows us that anything but the most stringent greenhouse gas reductions will mean that we will exceed the temperature limits agreed in the Paris agreement. It is doable, but every action in every month, in every year, counts. Every bit of population we don’t put up in the atmosphere will keep us safe, but we must act today.’
Skibbereen-based Irish climate activist Saoi O’Connor said the new IPCC report doesn’t say anything new per se, because the IPCC doesn’t conduct new research, just compiles and reviews the latest science.
‘The new news is the old news, the stuff we’ve been saying for years,’ she told The Southern Star. ‘The climate crisis is happening now, the people who are being hit hardest are the Most Affected Peoples and Areas (MAPA) who have contributed least to the crisis, and extreme weather events – like flooding – are becoming, and will continue to become, much worse and much more frequent.
‘Effectively,’ she said, ‘the message is that things are bad and we have no choice but to act radically now, or they will get much, much worse.’
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the government’s Climate Action Plan will set out what we need to do this decade, including changes in how we generate our energy, get around, heat our homes, grow our food and look after our land.