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The final frontier

Living

END OF THE ROAD? Without climate action, winter rainfall will continue to increase, causing more and more flooding.

Nature and Rewilding
Pat Fahy

Space, the final frontier. Star log ‘The myth of infinite growth in the capitalist system (we’re going to need a bigger universe)’. Captain Quirke to Chief Engineer Scotty on the USS Pell Mell: “We need warp drive Scotty, turn it up to 11”. “The Methane clathrate crystals cannae take it captain, they’re going to blow, been telling yea that last 30 years but yea dinnae listen.” Then I wake up, many light years away from writing this article. Two blanks pages still staring back at me.  
I have been having many strange dreams lately about climate change. At least I can make up for dreamtime with an interesting talk on climate change I attended recently. It was given by leading climatologist Dr Conor Murphy, and hosted by Westport Civic Trust. The room was packed out beyond expectation.
Earth’s natural greenhouse effect is critical to supporting life. Without it, the world’s temperature would be 19 degrees Celsius cooler on average. However, human activities – mainly the burning of fossil fuels and clear felling of forests – have accelerated this greenhouse effect.
Ireland has one of the longest continuous records of rainfall in the world, and a study of the period 1711 to 2016 revealed that in that period of over 300 years, the decade 2006–2015 was the wettest the country has seen. It also revealed multi-centennial trends, showing increasing rainfall in winter and decreasing rainfall in summer.
If there is no climate action, then one out of every seven Irish summers will surpass the driest on record, making irrigation of land a common sight. In general, a much bigger problem we face is flooding. We’ve been lucky so far that a major city hasn’t fully experienced the potentially disastrous combination of a high tide, a storm surge, and a swollen river.
Dr Murphy predicts that people will only be stirred into action when they experience the worst effects of climate change.
In final questions, it was interesting to hear that 30 years ago a professor did a talk in Westport, contending that the temperatures must have been +2°C around the Céide Fields some 5,000 years ago for continuous grass growth. Alas, this does not mean we are off the hook, it was explained. Natural warming anomalies can occur due to increased solar activity, decreased volcanic activity and changes to ocean currents.
Last year, the 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report gave us some good news: Climate catastrophe can be averted if we keep global temperature rise down to 1.5°C. We need to aim for that. Shoot for the moon and surely we’ll get there or there abouts.
This situation is getting increasingly urgent for the next generation. Individual actions create awareness, and they start the conversation. If you want change, be the change.
Five miles and that’s it. That’s the height of our atmosphere. Not much between us and the vastness of outer space. We are in a bit of a rut right now, but some of us aren’t looking up to the heavens in despair, we’re looking up to the stars for inspiration, to remind ourselves that we live on a very special place in the universe. We shouldn’t heap it up with pollutants. This is our planet, our home. We should recognise it as our little bit of paradise.

> Pat Fahy is Biodiversity Officer with Westport Tidy Towns.