Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time and this challenge is likely to come more into focus more over the coming years and decades. Climate change is defined as a significant change in the measures of climate, such as temperature, rainfall, or wind, lasting for an extended period – decades or longer. The Earth's climate has changed many times during the planet's history, with events ranging from ice ages to long periods of warmth. What’s different about this period of the earth’s history is that human activities are significantly contributing to natural climate change through our emissions of greenhouse gases. This interference is resulting in increased air and ocean temperatures, drought, melting ice and snow, rising sea levels, increased rainfall, flooding and other influences.
While climate change can result from natural processes the current global aim is to tackle climate change resulting from human activities whose greenhouse gas emissions are changing the composition of the earth’s atmosphere. It is well documented that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in greenhouse gas emissions produced by humans including carbon dioxide emissions through burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas and peat, methane emissions from agriculture and other emissions through changes in land use such as cutting down our forests.
For Ireland, climate change impacts are projected to increase in the coming decades and would include the following:
- sea level rise,
- more intense storms and rainfall events,
- increased likelihood and magnitude of river and coastal flooding and
- water shortages in summer in the east
- adverse impacts on water quality
- changes in distribution of plant and animal species
- potential effects on fisheries with changes in temperature
Publication of Local Authority Adaptation Strategy Development Guidelines
The Paris Agreement
On 12 December 2015, all 196 Parties to the UNFCCC agreed an ambitious new legally-binding, global agreement on climate change. The agreement provides an international framework for a global response on climate change to hold the increase in global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to keep the more stringent target of below 1.5 degrees in sight.
This historic deal ensures a truly multilateral response to one of the largest challenges facing humanity; it puts in place the necessary framework for all countries to take ambitious action, as well as providing for a transparency system that ensures Parties can have confidence in each other’s efforts. The agreement also recognises that climate adaptation is a global challenge and provides a broad framework for countries to work together, share information and build experience to increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience. That historic step has been taken but it is just the first step on the longer journey – now each country must take action.
The recently passed Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 puts in place the necessary National Frameworks to ensure Ireland can plan for, and take the necessary action on both adaptation and mitigation within the context of the global efforts now underway towards achieving a shared goal