Climate change will arrive in a bill not a tsunami

26th May, 2013

John Sweeney and Joe O'Brien

On Thursday may 23rd at Skerries Sailing Club world renowned and joint Nobel Prize winning climatologist Prof. John Sweeney spoke on the reality and implications of climate change. Prof. Sweeney gave a comprehensive presentation on the current global and national situation and also spoke of the faulty theories that climate deniers use. He stated that the academic debate is over: climate change is happening, and man-made. But we are losing the public debate.

The meeting was hosted by local Green Party representative Joe O’Brien who detailed the specific vulnerability of Skerries to climate change: When you look at the three main road routes out of Skerries you see that they are all vulnerable to flooding. Access to the Dublin road can be impeded by flooding at the roundabout. The Balbriggan road recently experienced serve flooding at Barnageeragh and the Rush Road has also in the past been under several feet of water. Not to mention of course the recreational centre of Skerries – the somewhat prophetically named Red Island which is at very real long term risk of becoming disconnected from the mainland. People in the Holmpatrick area of Skerries have climate change literally coming in their front doors with more frequent flooding in the area.

I don’t think that climate change will announce itself with a big tsunami encapsulating Rockabill lighthouse – I think it will announce itself in a way much more grounded in the reality of our daily grind.  Climate change will arrive in the post with for example higher insurance premiums. In Ireland there are 50,000 houses that cannot achieve flood insurance…This means people cannot sell their home or purchase the one they want to because they cannot get a mortgage for it.


So climate change is hitting home when the home or business owner picks up their post at the front door and opens the new quote from the insurance company and his heart sinks when he realises that it is just not affordable. It is hitting home in rural Ireland and indeed in the horticultural sector when the farmer realises that if the summer rain continues he will entail further losses this year that it will mean that its time to exit the family business. Then there is the issue of opportunity cost – if Central and local government across the country is spending more money on keeping roads open, homes habitable and businesses functional then this money must be pulled from somewhere else – and other services may be hit. For instance the question need to be asked is the €1.5million needed for the necessary flood prevention works on the Mill Stream being pulled from other essential services?

Currently the Climate Change Bill is being discussed in Leinster House. Prof Sweeney explained that: in 2010, Ireland’s per capita emissions of CO2 stood at nearly twice the EU average. I am particularly concerned by the lack of targets and absence of enforcement body in current Climate Change Bill. We need a 5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per year from now to combat the threat of Climate Change.

Mr. O’Brien asked attendees at the meeting to sign a petition to Minister Hogan to ask him to set a target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 as recommended by the EU and G8. Mr. O’Brien will present the petition to the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment in the coming weeks.