Irish see climate as key problem to tackle at EU level
One-third of Irish people now view climate change as a top issue for the European Union to tackle, a new poll has revealed.
According to the bloc’s latest Eurobarometer series, 33 per cent of Irish respondents cited climate change as one of the two most pressing issues facing the region. Just over 20 per cent of overall EU respondents felt the same.
When asked about the two most important issues facing Ireland itself, 17 per cent of those surveyed identified the “environment, climate and energy issues” as one of the main threats, a notable difference from the third who saw climate change as one of the top regional issues.
“I think that tells us that Irish people possibly still think of climate change as some more abstract, distant threat that doesn’t affect the here and now,” Assistant Professor of Law and Government at DCU Dr Diarmuid Torney told The Green News.
“It would suggest to me that Irish people have internalized the fact that there’s this climate problem that we at some level need to deal with, but that it’s still being seen in terms of this broader global or European regional threat.
“The message about the challenges and the potential impact for us here in Ireland just hadn’t got through to the extent that it ought to,” Prof Torney added.
The survey results come in the wake of a “green wave” that swept across the country during recent European and local elections.
The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar noted that the Greens success was “a very clear message” from the public that they “want us to do more on climate action”.
National Risk Assessment
From 650 submissions received during the public consultation for this year’s National Risk Assessment, climate change and biodiversity were outlined as the most important priority for respondents.
The Assessment, now in its sixth year, provides an overview of the key strategic risks facing Ireland into the future. Alongside Brexit, climate change and biodiversity decline are outlined as primary risks facing the country.
Key climate impacts outlined in the assessment include sea-level rise, water shortages in summer, wildfires owing to drought conditions and adverse impacts on water quality.
“Sea level rise is already being observed and is projected to continue to rise into the future, which will increase both flood and erosion risk to our coastal communities and infrastructural assets, as well as threaten coastal squeeze of intertidal habitats,” it warns.
It recognised that the cost of inaction in terms of climate change mitigation exceeds the cost of action, and that “this differential will rise steeply with time”.
Lack of action to tackle the crisis, the assessment states, will also impact Irish biodiversity that is “highly vulnerable” to the impacts of climate change.
The latest Biodiversity Indicator Survey estimates that over 90 per cent of our habitats designated under EU law is “inadequate” or of “bad” status, with numerous bird, insect and pollinator species also at risk.