- 22 Jul 22
As record breaking heat is causing raging natural disaster, deaths are rising. The effects of climate change are becoming harder and harder to ignore, yet significant action has yet to be taken.
As record breaking heat runs through Europe, many Western countries are finding themselves unprepared and ill-equipped to cope. The effects of climate change are undeniable — with wildfires, droughts and floods running rampant as well as thousands of heat-related deaths.
Dublin recorded its hottest day ever on July 18th, with 33.0C recorded at Phoenix Park. This is 12.8C above normal, breaking Dublin’s all-time record and coming only 0.3C below Ireland’s 135 year record. As the temperature rises, so do casualties.
When people rush to the water to cool down, they don't always pay attention to water safety. Minister for Transport and Environment Eamon Ryan released a statement after three drownings occurred over the past week. He urged, “Be careful, don’t go into waters that you don’t know how safe they are.”
The UK continues to break heat records multiple times a day, causing its first ever “Extreme Red” heat warning. As temperatures surpass 40.0C, Britain’s railways are being warped and blocked by fire, and trains are shut down. Network Rail issued a “do not travel” warning, and closed all services running in or out of London King Cross. Trains that have not been shut down are running at extremely low speeds, some as slow as 20mph.
⚠️ Absolutely DO NOT travel north out of London.⚠️
This record-breaking heat means there are no train services out of London King’s Cross or London Euston.@NetworkRailEUS @NetworkRailKGX @AvantiWestCoast @LNER@nationalrailenq#heatwave #heatwaveuk pic.twitter.com/t5ZROs7GqP
— Network Rail (@networkrail) July 19, 2022
Scotland is facing water scarcity as the climate changes and dry weather and drought grow. Citizens are being urged to use less water to conserve the country's supply. Furthermore, London’s firefighters reported their busiest day since World War II, receiving more than 2,600 calls in one day.
Southern and Western Europe have been hit the hardest, as more than 1,000 deaths have been reported due to heat in Portugal and Spain. Portugal recorded 47.0C, with over 3,000 hectares of land burned in wildfires. In Spain, more than 30 forest fires have run thousands of people out of their homes and killed two. France has had over 19,300 hectares destroyed in the past week. Firefighters are struggling to contain these fires, and people are being forced to flee their homes. The French regional fire-chief, Marc Vermeulen, described the fires as “literally exploding.”
"The fire is literally exploding" said Marc Vermeulen, the regional fire service chief who described #tree trunks shattering as #flames consumed them, sending burning #embers into the #air & further spreading the #blazes." (PBS/AP)#EnvironmentalDisasterhttps://t.co/5edbgeOlNI
— Thinking... (@Shureyield) July 18, 2022
The heat is forecasted to continue moving North, and is rising rapidly. Many European countries are not prepared to handle this type of disaster and do not have the necessary infrastructure to deal with it. More than five countries have declared states of emergency, and record breaking heat is hitting countries where few homes have air conditioning installed. Railways are not built properly to be stressed for these higher temperatures.
🔥 Britain's highest ever temperatures were a huge challenge for a railway engineered for much less intense summers.
🚧 Here are seven ways we responded to this week's heatwave, all to keep you safe:
➡️ https://t.co/yLJfFpq0Ro#heatwave #heatwaveuk pic.twitter.com/YUreAm3cd5
— Network Rail (@networkrail) July 21, 2022
The world has warmed by 1.1C since the industrial revolution. This may sound insignificant, but it is the reason why we are facing this kind of climate crisis. Natural disasters and heatwaves are now 10-100 times more likely than before greenhouse gases were being pumped industrially. The effects of climate breakdown are becoming harder to ignore, yet significant action has yet to be taken. United Nations Secretary Antonio Guterres warned against “collective suicide” to leaders from 40 nations gathered in Berlin as part of the Petersburg Climate Dialogue. He spoke out, “Half of humanity is in the danger zone from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction.”
Politicians continue to distract from climate breakdown with focus on energy prices. As the Southwest United States is the driest it has been in 1,200 years, President Biden went to Saudi Arabia to convince them to pump more oil. Following Boris Johnson’s resignation as UK Prime Minister, none of the candidates have promised to complete Johnson's 'Green Industrial Revolution'. One candidate, Kemi Badenoch, even said she would be willing to push back the net zero carbon emissions plan.
The reality is that the attitudes of most citizens match those of the politicians. 53 per cent of Europeans polled in a McKinsey survey said their top concern was rising prices. Leaving the invasion of Ukraine at 15 per cent, unemployment at 8 per cent, and extreme weather events down at 5 per cent. Never mind that extreme weather events, rising prices, unemployment and wars are all connected to the climate crisis.
If climate change is not on people’s minds while nations are literally on fire, it begs the question if it ever will be. It is all too evident that action is needed. But the question is, when will it be taken?
Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council has submitted 34 recommendations to be reviewed by the National Adaptation Framework due to the severe weather conditions which have “demonstrated the need for urgent action.” Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions increased by almost 5% last year. This was mainly caused by a huge increase in coal and oil use in electricity generation, according to the EPA. While we saw a decrease in emissions due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions causing people to travel less, levels are rapidly rising once again.
Climate Change Advisory Council makes its message as clear as can be: "Ireland is completely off course in addressing the challenge of climate change." pic.twitter.com/3lgX5p1q2O
— David Healy (@davidhealyv) July 25, 2018
The agriculture industry is responsible for 37.5 per cent of Ireland's total emissions. Beneath that is transport, then energy. The Government's Climate Action plan published in 2021 set a target to reduce Ireland's emissions by 51% by 2030, compared to 2018. They aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. However, not all leaders are fully on board with this plan. There has been pushback from members of the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties, claiming these targets are too high.
According to Leo Varadkar, "These targets [statutorily binding budgets] are very ambitious and we do have to do everything we can to achieve them. But we’re not going to penalise and punish people if they can’t be achieved".
By not carrying out policies that the public overwhelmingly voted in favour of, the government not meeting targets inevitably does "penalise and punish" huge amounts of people. In the very short term, these happen to be predominantly poor people of colour in countries outside of Ireland. However, with rising sea levels causing flooding nationwide and more extreme storms wreaking havoc, soon these weather events will pose a much greater problem on Irish soil. Will it only be when we can see damage and death up close that action will be taken?
One thing not much covered in today's emissions news was that emissions from households was down, people are doing their bit, none of the other sectors are tho
— Minister for Spuds at the Dept of Bacon & Cabbage (@FCTwenteBenson) July 21, 2022
The harsh truth is, even if the Climate Action Plan is fully implemented, emissions would only reduce by 28% by 2030. Regardless, if Ireland does not meet the required levels of emissions set by the EU and the Paris Agreement, the Ministers will be held responsible and may face fines.
All governments need to make stronger commitments to climate action plans before it is too late. While the majority of the responsibility lies on big corporations and politicians, anyone can take action by joining activist groups such as Stop Climate Chaos, Climate Ireland, Greenpeace, and Amnesty International. You can also reach out to your local TD's to express concern about Ireland's climate change policies.