Scientists issue doomsday warning for Irish cities

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January 7th, 2015
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Scientists issue doomsday warning for Irish cities
Wednesday 7th January 2015
● NewsBy Lynne Kelleher

Irish scientists have issued a stark doomsday warning about large swathes of the country going under the sea to climate change.

In a grim global warming special on RTE’s flagship environment series Eco Eye, it is warned that sea level rises due to climate change could leave two per cent of Dublin swallowed by the ocean.

Professor Robert Devoy, from the Coastal Marine Research Centre (CMRC), estimates that it will cost at least €5bn to protect our most populated cities and the most critical areas of the Irish coastline.

He warned the low-lying cities of Cork, Dublin, Belfast and Galway will find it “very difficult” to defend against violent storm surges and rising seas in the coming decades.

Professor Devoy, who is one of the country’s leading experts on global warming, warned of a doomsday scenario if climate change continues at its current pace.

He said: “Climate change is a reality. It’s here. That’s something as a society we haven’t bought into. It will be a very difficult problem for Dublin, Cork, Galway and Belfast.

“What is coming down the tracks is a significant warming of the planet. The last time it warmed of this order, 88 per cent of life on earth disappeared.

“Given the nature of politics being short-term, it’s the last thing on our politicians’ minds.

“I have five grandchildren. Whatever time is left to me it doesn’t matter, but for them at the age of four and five I can see we have significant problems to solve.

“We can’t wait any longer for reducing carbon emissions and making significant changes.”

In RTE’s climate change special, a series of scientists give a hard-hitting message about the catastrophic dangers of global warming, which will make last year’s extreme storms and flooding seem tame.

It catalogues how the last decade has been the hottest on record and how plant and animal species are going extinct at rates thousands of times faster than before due to the unprecedented changes taking place on the planet.

Irish climate experts have predicted that houses and other assets along the coast may have to be abandoned to the rising tides of the sea as it will be too costly to protect them.

Dr Barry Dwyer, environmental scientist with the Coastal Marine Research Centre at the Irish Naval Headquarters, said climate models show that two per cent of the capital is in dire danger of being swamped by the sea, along with more than three per cent of northern counties.

He said: “The big problem is storm surges that we have in Ireland with sea level rises, and then add another storm surge on top of that and that becomes a two-metre storm surge.

“In the more northerly counties we are looking at up to 3.5 per cent of the entire land area being inundated, and that doesn’t account for the big wash that would come off the storm surge and the destruction from that.”

In Eco Eye,presenter Duncan Stewart travels to the geologically spectacular country of Iceland to show how melting glaciers across the planet are contributing to sea level rise and climate change at an alarming rate.

Eco Eye reports how NASA scientists discovered just last year that a huge section of the west Antarctic ice shelf has begun an irreversible calving into the sea, which on its own will raise sea levels by an additional metre above the current accepted figures.

As global warming increases, so will the quantity of rain, which will put huge pressure on our rivers, with the Office of Public Works identifying at least 300 areas of Ireland which will suffer from increased flooding.

Cathal O’Mahony, Coastal research scientist with the CMRC, said: “We’ve concentrated a lot of things along our coastline. Be it our urban centres, our road or rail networks and even our leisure time.

“The strategy is really going to involve a lot of agencies working side by side.

“No one organisation is going to have the answer to climate change.

He said certain areas of the coastline may have to be sacrificed.

He said: “We need to make decisions on where perhaps we can defend and where we can retreat.”

Eco Eye will be shown on RTE One on tonight at 7pm.

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