30/04/2002

Study warns of “chronic” changing climate

Northern Ireland could face more severe winter storms and rising sea levels over the next 80 years, according to a major new government report on climate change.

The report, entitled “The Implications of Climate Change for Northern Ireland” published on Tuesday April 30, warns that the impacts of climate change for Northern Ireland are likely to be chronic and cumulative rather than acute.

According to the report, over the next 80 years, winter temperatures could rise by nearly 3 degrees Celsius and 2.5 degrees in the summer.

Winter and autumn rainfall could rise by as much as 22 per cent, but summer rainfall would be reduced by up to seven per cent.

The project was led by Professor Austin Smyth, of Napier University, in association with Professor Ian Montgomery, from Queen’s Biology and Biochemistry, Dr David Favis-Mortlock, from Queen’s Geography and Dr Simon Allen, from Edinburgh University.

“Sea levels could rise by up to 74cm and while the frequency of gales will decline, there is likely to be increased incidence of very severe winter storms,” Dr Montgomery said.

“Northern Ireland faces particular problems because of the greater importance of its freshwaters, its high rainfall, a reliance on intensive pastoral agriculture, and a dependency on non-renewable, expensive energy sources,” he added.

Professor Montgomery pointed out that climate change will not occur in isolation and will generally exacerbate ongoing environmental problems such as those related to water quality.

This is the first ever comprehensive and wide-ranging study of the potential effects of climate change on the social, health, economic and environmental condition of Northern Ireland.

One of the study’s key findings was a lack of knowledge and concern regarding future climate change among all sectors of the Northern Ireland economy.

The region lags behind the rest of the UK in developing appropriate adaptation strategies. Commenting on the study, Dermot Nesbitt, Minister of the Environment, warned against complacency about climate change.

“I am concerned that the researchers have identified there is a generally low awareness and concern about climate change and its impacts across all sectors in Northern Ireland. All aspects of the public and private sector could be vulnerable and it is vital to bring the potential impacts of climate change to the attention of everyone,” he said.

(AMcE)

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