Ireland Getting Hotter, Wetter

By Shawn Pogatchnik
Associated Press Writer

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) — Ireland’s average temperature has been rising at twice the global rate since the early 1980s and parts of the country are becoming wetter and more prone to flooding due to climate change, a government-funded report said Wednesday.

The report found that Ireland’s average temperature has been rising at the rate of 0.76 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1980. It said six of Ireland’s 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1990, and forecast that heatwaves would increase in severity, frequency and length.

The study, compiled by National University of Ireland climatologists for the Environmental Protection Agency, also found that rainfall was increasing in both volume and intensity along Ireland’s Atlantic coastline, but was relatively unchanged in the more heavily populated east.

A co-author of the report, John Sweeney, said Ireland’s temperatures began rising in the early 1980s, unlike the global norm, which experienced rises from the mid-1970s. The fact that Ireland is surrounded by water may have been a reason for the delay, he said.

Since then, however, Ireland has been “making up for lost time … and warming at roughly twice the rate of the global average,” Sweeney said. The country’s minimum daily temperatures have been rising more quickly than maximum afternoon temperatures, in part because of increased cloud cover at night from moister air, he said.

A series of EPA-sanctioned studies have forecast that Ireland will face water-supply shortfalls within the coming two decades, particularly in Dublin, home to a third of the country’s 4.2 million people, and Ireland’s sunniest corner in the southeast. Dublin has only a single source of drinking water that is currently running to within 1 percent of capacity.

“We’re putting the people where we have the least water availability, and also where climate change will further squeeze them in terms of less rainfall in the future,” Sweeney said.

Dublin City Council planners have already rejected the idea of diverting water from Ireland’s largest river, the Shannon in the west – a proposal with unknown ecological implications.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic-exposed west will be increasingly prone to floods and soil erosion due to heavy rains, the EPA said.

Ireland, a car-dependent society with a rapidly expanding economy, has been unable to cut its production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, a leading cause of global warming. Under its commitments to the Kyoto treaty, Ireland is supposed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 60 million tons annually by next year, but currently emits close to 70 million tons.

To achieve an artificial cut, the government has set aside $370 million to buy carbon credits from foreign companies and other countries that are emitting less than their Kyoto-specified limits. But the actual level of pollution in Ireland is expected to keep rising.

Mary Kelly, EPA director general, said that even with a cutback in emissions, the country will likely still be affected by higher average temperatures, declining frosty periods and heavier rainfalls in coming years because of the level of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.

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