Belfast Telegraph

Ulster's climate apocalypse

Disappearing beaches, devastating storms, disastrous floods... they'll all happen in our lifetime unless urgent action is taken

By Linda McKee

Ulster could lose its best-loved beaches, suffer extreme storms and flooding and face plummeting temperatures unless world leaders act now to stave off climate change.

The warnings come from green campaigners as Prime Minister Tony Blair called on world leaders to unite to tackle climate change, insisting that any delay could lead to irreversible change.

And Northern Ireland may be hit by storms and flooding in the years to come - even if the world acts immediately to cut carbon emissions.

The news comes just weeks after it emerged that people in Northern Ireland are Europe's worst for wasting energy. The province sits on top of the European Energy Wasters' league, according to a recent survey.

Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland chief executive John Woods warned that some changes have already been put in motion and are irreversible - no matter how green we become.

But he insisted that every measure we take now can make a difference to the future of the planet, no matter how small.

"Looking over the next 20-30 years, the changes going to take place are already there. There will be temperature rises, there will be weather changes," he said.

However, the worst changes are set to come after 2050 when massive disruption of global weather systems will wreak havoc on the poorest countries, bringing huge floods to Bangladesh and catastrophic drought to Africa.

What we do now will determine whether those post-2050 changes will come to pass or not, Mr Woods said.

"In Northern Ireland, gradually winters will be getting warmer and wetter and summers will getting hotter and drier.

"The changes in weather will disrupt agriculture and there will certainly be difficulties over flooding and weather events. "You'll get increased storms and travel disruption across the Irish Sea. Coastal areas could suffer from storms and flooding, rivers will rise. The Lower Ormeau (in Belfast) is already susceptible to flooding and if the Lagan is carrying a lot more water from additional rainfall that will affect a wider area," he said.

"We're ultimately likely to have sea level rises in the latter half of the century, depending on whether we act now.

"The north coast beaches will be gone and we will lose those valuable habitats."

Meanwhile, experts have theorised that declining salt levels in the North Atlantic could halt the Gulf Stream, which provides Ulster's mild climate.

"There are concerns about the loss of the Gulf Stream and the science is uncertain. There could possibly be a different set of effects.

"It could become very cold indeed, a bit more like what they would have in northern Canada. Ulster needs to respond to the threat immediately," Mr Woods warned.

"We mustn't say, 'We are only a small place and we can't do much' - because we can," he said.

"We think the Government should be taking responsibility for this and setting annual targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions of 3% each year."

Ordinary people are not immune from taking responsibility either, he said.

One of the top priorities will be to get rid of gas-guzzling SUVs and 4x4s which are becoming socially unacceptable.

"People shouldn't take short trips in their cars but walk or cycle instead, they should use public transport, they should switch to NIE's renewable energy tariff.

"Insulate your homes and it will pay dividends," Mr Woods said.

The £2m research ship that will probe the Irish Sea's dwindling fish stocks

A new marine research vessel will be used to discover how badly the Irish Sea has been hit by climate change.

The latest research suggests that cod stocks may be threatened, not purely due to overfishing, but possibly because of rising temperatures in the Irish Sea over the past century.

And the newly commissioned Research Vessel Corystes will scour the Irish Sea to collect evidence of how global changes are transforming the marine ecosystem and fish stocks.

Agriculture minister David Cairns yesterday formally commissioned Corystes, which has been refurbished by the Agrifood and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) with state-of-the-art technology which will be used to map the sea bed and monitor changes in the marine environment.

Dr Walter Crozier, head of fisheries and agquatic ecosystems at AFBI, said the massive decline in cod stocks was previously believed to be a result of overfishing but newer evidence suggests the fish are suffering environmental pressure due to climate change.

The Corystes replaces the previous marine research vessel, the Lough Foyle.

The agriculture minister said the work would support the objective of achieving sustainability of Irish Sea fisheries and developing an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

"Sound management of our fishery resources depend on evidence-based science," Mr Cairns said.

The vessel contains a wet lab for biological material, a dry lab for chemical analysis and oceanography and an acoustic lab used to detect fish shoals.

The scientists also plan to investigate the maerl beds off the north Antrim coast, which consist of a rare coral-like substance which grows slowly and harbours juveniles of many commercially important fish species.

Stern warning no surprise

By Claire McNeilly

Northern Ireland should lead the way and show the world how to make more use of renewable energy sources, experts urged today.

Dr Neil Hewitt, director of the Centre for Sustainable Technology at the University of Ulster, said the findings of the Stern report were in no way unexpected.

"If we're to survive, we need to go with it. We're an island on the edge of Europe," he said.

"We're small. There are cities in Europe bigger than us. We really need to get our finger out. If prices start going up we're going to feel it worse."

Dr Hewitt added that Ulster could pave the way in terms of progress.

"We really need to be much more innovative. We're a small economy but we could be leaders in making this transition to a low carbon economy," he said.

"Firstly, we must make more use of our renewable energy resources, like wind. Secondly, we're too heavily reliant on cars for everything we do. And thirdly we need to improve our buildings."

Dr Hewitt added: "I think it is necessary to take action right now. The Stern report shouldn't have come as a big shock to people."

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said: "It's basically saying that if we go on the way we're going it will cost thousands of lives. It's a timely warning that each one of us has a responsibility to save energy and prevent global warning."

SDLP environment spokesman Tommy Gallagher added: "It is clear that if our generation do not wake up to this humanity changing moment it will be our children and grandchildren who end up paying the price.

Belfast Telegraph

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