Danny Healy Rae's rambling Climate Change speech in the Dáil is embarrassing. He begins with, 'I don't agree with all this story about climate change at all...' and continues with a series of inaccurate assertions that show a complete lack of knowledge or understanding of the subject.
Climate change is not a system of belief which you can reject or accept. It is an observed and ever-growing phenomenon, the result of increasing levels of carbon and other pollutants in the atmosphere, for which the evidence is incontrovertible. It affects weather by upsetting usual climate patterns through higher global average temperatures.
It used to be called global warming, which is technically true, but this confused many people as climate change can bring much colder weather within warmer average temperatures. For example, the chill winds we had all last summer and which we seem to be having again this spring are the result of a highly unusual cold front lingering in the North Atlantic. Can this be attributed to climate change? That is very difficult to say and most scientists would avoid saying it, but as such unusual events increase in number, we can be increasingly confident that climate change is to blame. Similarly, beekeepers will tell you our average winter temperatures are well up, as bees are active on milder days and this can lead to problems with starvation.
Calculating Global Average Temperatures
Scientists only have instrument records for the last 150 years, but older global average temperatures can be calculated by proxy using tree rings, ice cores, sub-fossil pollen, boreholes, corals as well as lake and ocean sediments. The reconstruction of average global temperatures through time has led the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to conclude: “Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely the highest in at least the past 1,300 years.”
In general, our weather is becoming more extreme and unpredictable as a result of broader climate fluctuations. But we are only the tip of the iceberg. The tragic injustice of climate change is that those who suffer its effects the most did the least to bring it about. In 2001 over 100,000 people died in the Horn of Africa as a result of a drought that has been linked with climate change. Indeed food security all over the world is threatened by unpredictable and ever more extreme weather.
Resistance to attempts to mitigate climate change has been observed from vested interests like oil companies, since climate change was first identified in the 1970s. They tried to protect the fossil fuel industry by setting up 'think-tanks' and by paying rogue scientists to dispute the findings of climate science. Spreading disinformation and confusion about whether or not climate change is real has slowed our response, which has probably made the effects of climate change much more serious for future generations.
In light of this, as a public representative, Mr Healy Rae's obvious ignorance of, and indifference to the seriousness of climate change is perhaps understandable, if not still utterly irresponsible. His speech may reflect his own views on the subject, or perhaps that is how he thinks people are. In any case, he is wrong and it is an insult. This is the national chamber for debate and deputies should prepare themselves somewhat, by reading up on the facts prior to entering their speeches into the historical record.
As for his assertion that Ireland is a small country and thus should not bear the brunt of any ameliorative efforts, he should remember that per capita we are among the worst polluters in the world and, as he said, we must all do our bit. Sometimes people like to bury their heads in the sand. It is up to our leaders to rouse us to action, not to encourage indolence.
“Freshwater-related risks of climate change increase significantly with increasing greenhouse gas concentrations (robust evidence, high agreement).
Climate change over the 21st century is projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions (robust evidence, high agreement), intensifying competition for water among sectors (limited evidence, medium agreement).
A large fraction of both terrestrial and freshwater species faces increased extinction risk under projected climate change during and beyond the 21st century, especially as climate change interacts with other stressors, such as habitat modification, over-exploitation, pollution, and invasive species (high confidence).
Within this century, magnitudes and rates of climate change associated with medium- to high-emission scenarios (RCP4.5, 6.0, and 8.5) pose high risk of abrupt and irreversible regional-scale change in the composition, structure, and function of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, including wetlands (medium confidence).
Due to sea level rise projected throughout the 21st century and beyond, coastal systems and low-lying areas will increasingly experience adverse impacts such as submergence, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion (very high confidence).
Due to projected climate change by the mid 21st century and beyond, global marine-species redistribution and marine-biodiversity reduction in sensitive regions will challenge the sustained provision of fisheries productivity and other ecosystem services (high confidence).
Illustration of the core concepts of the WGII AR5.
Risk of climate-related impacts results from the interaction of climate-related hazards (including hazardous events and trends) with the vulnerability and exposure of human and natural systems.
Changes in both the climate system (left) and socioeconomic processes including adaptation and mitigation (right) are drivers of hazards, exposure, and vulnerability.
EMISSIONS and Land-use Change
For medium- to high-emission scenarios (RCP4.5, 6.0, and 8.5), ocean acidification poses substantial risks to marine ecosystems, especially polar ecosystems and coral reefs, associated with impacts on the physiology, behavior, and population dynamics of individual species from phytoplankton to animals (medium to high confidence).
For the major crops (wheat, rice, and maize) in tropical and temperate regions, climate change without adaptation is projected to negatively impact production for local temperature increases of 2°C or more above late-20th-century levels, although individual locations may benefit (medium confidence).
All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability (high confidence).
Many global risks of climate change are concentrated in urban areas (medium confidence).
Steps that build resilience and enable sustainable development can accelerate successful climate-change adaptation globally.
Major future rural impacts are expected in the near term and beyond through impacts on water availability and supply, food security, and agricultural incomes, including shifts in production areas of food and non-food crops across the world (high confidence).
For most economic sectors, the impacts of drivers such as changes in population, age structure, income, technology, relative prices, lifestyle, regulation, and governance are projected to be large relative to the impacts of climate change (medium evidence, high agreement).
Global economic impacts from climate change are difficult to estimate. Until mid-century, projected climate change will impact human health mainly by exacerbating health problems that already exist (very high confidence).
Throughout the 21st century, climate change is expected to lead to increases in ill-health in many regions and especially in developing countries with low income, as compared to a baseline without climate change (high confidence).
Climate change over the 21st century is projected to increase displacement of people (medium evidence, high agreement).
Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks (medium confidence).”
View Danny Healy Raes Speech here: