Today Storm Brendan sweeps across Ireland, and while it is far from unusual for us to be battered here on the West coast, now is a good time to reflect on what we will face should we not act on the climate crisis.
The storm left over 48,000 people without power, but the country got off rather lightly this time. According to Prof. Peter Thorne, a climate expert, it’s only a matter of time before Ireland experiences a catastrophic storm surge because of climate-related factors. The links between climate change and extreme weather events are very clear. Warmer ocean temperatures lead to more intense storms (2-11% is a conservative estimate for wind speed increase). As an Islander, I’m scared of what this will look like.
On Clare Island where I live, we’ve had twelve disrupted ferry sailings over the first thirteen days of 2020. The issue here is one that can be told the whole country over – it’s one of neglected, inadequate infrastructure, in this case a pier on the mainland which is the island community’s lifeline which is only usable in the fairest of weather conditions. This brings into stark relief another major issue which isn’t being addressed: that of adaptation. While we must do absolutely everything to limit catastrophic climate breakdown, we must also recognize that we are already experiencing significant changes, and this will only continue to occur. If we don’t put in place adaptation measures we risk small communities like mine falling apart when we begin to bear the full brunt of this crisis.
A study in Nature predicts a total economic cost of around $70 trillion if all current governmental pledges are met.
Storms destroy infrastructure, flood homes, roads and fields and kill people. These are things that cannot be quantified on a balance sheet, numbers on a page will never be able to represent the human cost involved in these disasters. Nonetheless, last year alone, extreme weather events across the globe caused over $100 billion in damages. This is only set to increase. A study in Nature predicts a total economic cost of around $70 trillion if all current governmental pledges are met.
Basically, even if we believe politicians when they say they that they are actually going to enact the plans that they present, we are still on track for a total economic cost of more than the total GDP of the Unites States, China and the EU combined.
Today as I braced myself against the 100+km/h gusts, and heard the explosive crashing of 5m waves, the sheer travesty of the government’s policy on energy really struck me. A topic that has recently entered the public consciousness as a potential source of major concern is that of energy security. Our current government would have you believe that importing Liquefied Natural Gas will give us this energy security, to which I ask this question: does importing one of the most volatile substances in the world via ships that have to cross one of the world’s roughest oceans sound like a good plan for “energy security”? Never mind the grave ethical ramifications associated with the use of fracked gas, the dire consequences for our environment posed by methane emissions which are stronger than CO2 by a factor of 84x and the sheer hypocrisy of continuing to use fossil fuels when all evidence points to the need for their immediate phasing out: this is just bad policy. It won’t even keep the lights on.
Do you know what will keep the lights on? Massive investment in renewables. Ships can’t go in weather like this, but there is no shortage of wind and no shortage of wave. Ireland is one of the best placed countries in the world to build offshore wind according to Robert Howerth, one of the world’s leading energy experts, who presented this evidence in a hearing about Shannon LNG before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action.
We started the year watching in horror Australia burns. An area of land three times the size of Belgium has been transformed into a post-apocalyptic graveyard covered in ash. The largest peace time evacuation in Australian history is still underway right now. It may not have gotten as much media attention, Jakarta, the world’s second largest city is currently 5 metres underwater. Over sixty people are dead and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
Australia and Indonesia are half a world away, and it can be easy to think that this couldn’t happen here.
But don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re safe just because you live on a small island in the Atlantic ocean off the West coast of Europe.
We’re in all in the same boat in stormy seas – this is uncharted territory for the human race, and all of us will face dire consequences if we do not act.
[originally published @ the Green News]
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