Like it or not, climate change is coming – The Irish Times

It is one of the best-established and well-proven criticisms of successive Irish governments that, no matter how well they respond to emergencies, they are incapable of planning for the long or even the medium term.

I could fill the page with examples. For now, look no further than the chronic failure to plan last spring for sufficient accommodation for refugees this winter. Are other countries also in difficulty? Yes. Is that an excuse not to go faster on pre-fabs and other mid-term quick fixes over the summer? No it is not.

In any event. Short-termism is of course not an exclusively Irish fault. In Egypt this week and next, world leaders, NGOs, activists, experts, lobbyists and all manner of pests have come together to discuss the climate crisis and resolve to do more to limit the effects of global warming. climate, currently on the verge of exceeding two degrees. If this cop is like all other cops, he will end up with exactly this resolve to do more, without the means and measures to ensure that enough is done.

Climate change is perhaps the best example of governments’ inability to plan for the long term. The pandemic came out of nowhere. The financial crash built gradually, then quickly. The war in Ukraine was the choice of an unpredictable tyrant. But everyone has known for years that human activity is making the world warmer.

This year, however, brought home in more immediately palpable terms what the warmer future will look like. London was sweltering in 40 degree heat; over a thousand people died in England. Baked India. Millions of people are on the brink of starvation in the Horn of Africa. Droughts in the northern hemisphere, according to climatologists, are now 20 times more likely.

Meanwhile, a third of Pakistan was under water for weeks after rains like never before. And that’s with global temperatures rising by 1.2 degrees; the world is, we repeat, on track to exceed two degrees of warming. And a good part of global warming is already priced in. No one really knows how much.

But you don’t need to delve too deeply into the abundant apocalyptic genre to find out what two degrees means. It’s there in the boring and terrifying predictions of science: more intense and more frequent extreme weather, meaning so far once-in-a-lifetime floods may hit every year, as do droughts, extreme heat, forest fires, etc.

It is not true, as the pessimists claim, that nothing has been done. In fact, the changes in energy production that are underway are remarkable, and much of the world is on the path to decarbonization, as the cost of renewables drops. Often it doesn’t look like it, but the world is coming to grips with the problem – it just isn’t doing it fast enough.

This means that while we must continue and intensify our efforts to decarbonize our societies and economies, we must also prepare for the inevitable changes in our climate that lie ahead. Ireland is likely to be much luckier than some parts of the globe, but we must overcome our chronic inability to plan for the longer term. The recent tendency to be unnecessary at this is not inevitable; the country has planned for the long term with mass higher education and with an industrial and fiscal strategy, joining the EU and embracing globalization. It will have to do it again to sustain our way of life through future climate change.

Our weather will become warmer and more humid. There will, it seems, be periods of drought and periods of unprecedented rainfall. This will require changes to our water infrastructure, which will need to store more water that arrives suddenly and in large volumes for future dry spells. Flood defenses will need to be redesigned and rebuilt, and coastal defenses in cities like Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Wexford and Sligo adapted to rising seas. All areas, but especially the south and west coasts, will need to prepare to withstand much more intense storms. Agriculture will need to prepare for changing weather conditions. These are actions that urgently need to be taken by government, local and national, by utilities, businesses and landlords.

But it is the human effects of climate change that may pose an even bigger challenge for Ireland and other EU members. Significantly increased migration from Africa and Asia seems an unshakeable certainty. This will require two responses from the government – ​​first, a humanitarian program to accommodate large numbers of climate refugees, perhaps on par with the current effort to help Ukrainians, and second, an effective admissions processing system. and, in some cases, rejections. .

Any program will necessarily be finite; the public will not consent to uncontrolled immigration. Anyone who thinks otherwise ignores the politics of Europe over the past decade and more. You can’t have borders without an immigration policy, and you can’t have an immigration policy without turning people back. The current situation, where asylum claims take years to process, will not be sustainable when multiples of the current number start arriving. The system must be prepared for this now.

These are daunting challenges facing this government and the next. But they really are essential. Many of the measures needed may well be unpopular – or at least there may be more popular ways to spend the vast resources they require – but they will be necessary. The public will also have to face reality.

Why are our politicians doing nothing, the climate protesters lament. The answer, as we all know, is very simple: because they rightly think it would be very unpopular. The unpredictable, threatening and hotter future will demand changes from all of us – not just politicians.

Teresa H. Sadler