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‘Severe storms are wake-up call to climate crisis’, says NI environmental expert

Time to look at climate emergency as NI sees three storms and snow arrive in just one week


Snow in Enniskillen

Snow in Enniskillen

Abigail Dickie with her sister Bethany from Enniskillen play in the snow

Abigail Dickie with her sister Bethany from Enniskillen play in the snow

Snowy conditions at Castle Coole in Enniskillen

Snowy conditions at Castle Coole in Enniskillen


Snow on the M2 motorway

Snow on the M2 motorway

A man walking his dogs in Orangefield Lane, east Belfast

A man walking his dogs in Orangefield Lane, east Belfast

Wallace Park in Lisburn

Wallace Park in Lisburn


Snow in Enniskillen

After the sixth named storm of the year blew in to Northern Ireland in just under two months – three in the past week alone – an environmental expert has said now is the time to refocus attention on the climate emergency.

Most of Northern Ireland woke up to a blanket of snow and freezing cold temperatures yesterday.

And a yellow weather warning for ice is in force this morning across most of Northern Ireland until 9am.

Sleet or snow showers may hit higher ground in Northern Ireland while temperatures may drop towards freezing in places, leaving people to possibly have to face icy stretches on untreated surfaces.

The north and west suffered most with the recent extreme weather causing much disruption for travel, with some schools staying closed due to the bad weather.

Some have argued that the high number of named storms in quick succession may be linked to climate change.

Professor John Barry is director of the Centre for Sustainability, Equality and Climate Action (SECA) at Queen's University, Belfast.

He said that we need to start looking at the reasons behind these storms and what we can do to help prevent further severe weather systems from moving in.

“We can’t say that these storm events and the severity of them are directly linked with climate breakdown,” he told Belfast Telegraph.

“But they are however more frequent and severe, and it seems that the ongoing climate crisis is consistent with the rise in storm levels.

“Climate breakdown is certainly exacerbating these storm events which are happening a lot more often now,” he added.

“While we have been lucky this time around that we haven’t experienced the same amount of flooding which parts of England have seen, it is important to be more aware of what is happening and what we can do about it.”

So, how concerned should we be about the changing weather systems and continuous extreme weather warnings?

Very, it seems.

“What we are looking at now is a new ‘climate-changed’ world,” explained Professor Barry.

“We have pumped up an extreme amount of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and as a result of our actions it has now destabilised the climate.”

The climate change expert said what we need to do now is look closer to home to see what we can do to help prevent more extreme environmental disasters from occurring.

“We need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions while at same time we have to adapt to this climate changed world,” he said.

“This includes everything from our sea defences to flood alleviation schemes which are good at adapting our environments for potential storm surges and rising water levels.

“The world, as it stands, is not on track, however, to meet its goals of becoming carbon neutral, and we need to be more proactive,” the academic added.

“We need to take protecting our infrastructure more seriously, whether it be urban spaces or even starting in our homes, and while we can’t know for sure, it could possibly lead to these events becoming a lot less severe.”

Professor Barry is now calling for political representatives across Northern Ireland to “do something” about the climate breakdown.

“We have highest political institutions in the UK declaring a climate emergency, but the threat doesn’t seem to be sinking in,” he said.

“These storms and extreme weather systems should serve as a wake-up call for politicians to act on these symbolic declarations of emergencies which we haven’t seen much action as of yet.”

Today will remain mostly dry across Northern Ireland, with sunny spells in the morning and early afternoon before gradually clouding over, although it will still be windy on coastlines in the north and west. The maximum temperature is expected to b e 8C.

Saturday is expected to be milder, mainly dry but cloudy, with strong to gale force southerly winds.

Overnight rain is forecast, and Sunday will be mainly dry and bright before more rain and wind at night.

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