Impact on Ireland's Environment

The IPCC predicts probable rises in world temperature and sea-levels (this not just from melting ice, but expansion of the oceans as they warm). Ireland needs to know how these global trends would work out regionally, and for this island in particular. Scientific teams of many kinds have been mobilised in Met Eireann, the universities and research institutes. The Government’s Environment Protection Agency commissions and funds research, and produces reviews of current knowledge.

Irish weather records show our average temperatures already up by more than 0.7 degrees C since 1890, and climbing even faster than the average global rate since 1980. All seasons have grown warmer, but winter more markedly so, and our nights, in particular, seem likely to go on getting milder. Depending on what happens in global control of CO­2, Irish climate scientists expect January temperatures to rise by 1.5° and July temperatures by 2.5° C in the next 40 years. The warming will continue to vary in different parts of the island, and to show up most strongly in the south and east.

By 2075, the winters in Northern Ireland and the north Midlands are expected to match those of Cork and Kerry today – a substantial shift in climate, indeed. It will put new pressures on our flora and fauna, and some species may become extinct in their present homes. Already, in many regions of the world, species are moving their range northwards. Where they are adapted to particular habitats, or particular conditions of warmth or moisture, they may have to move to survive.

This obviously threatens species that cannot move, but even those that can fly, walk, crawl, creep or spread their seeds or spores, may find their northward progress made impossible. No new habitats may exist to match the ones they have left, or the way ahead may be blocked. In our highly fragmented landscape, criss-crossed by roads and houses and intensively farmed, the scope for protecting or creating new and diverse habitats diminishes all the time. Even the natural corridors for wildlife movement that connect one potential refuge with another, such as hedgerows, tree-lines, culverts and leafy river banks, are under constant human encroachment.


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