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Eamonn Farrell/

Protesters interrupt Eamon Ryan at climate conference in Ballina

The minister was delivering a speech about the need to significantly improve communication about climate change.

MINISTER FOR CLIMATE Eamon Ryan was interrupted by protesters today at a climate conference in Co Mayo.

The minister was delivering a speech this morning at a three-day conference organised by the Mary Robinson Climate Centre in Ballina, where he focused on efforts to communicate about the urgency of climate change.

“The communications we’ve been doing to date haven’t worked,” the minister said.

During his speech, at least three members of the audience stood up with signs, calling for tangible climate action.

One protester said that despite the availability of solutions, “year after year the climate crisis worsens and Ireland’s emissions grow and grow. We are one of the worst states for it in the EU.” 

“There is no way that we should be still philosophising about the solutions to this crisis.”

The conference is taking place this week against the backdrop of two successive days of record-breaking global temperatures on Monday and Tuesday.

The IPCC, a leading panel of climate scientists, has warned that the impacts of climate change are already causing severe and widespread disruption to people’s lives across various regions of the world.

During Minister Ryan’s remarks, he said he wanted to focus on the issue of communications about climate change because it is “central to how we address the climate challenge”.

“The communications we’ve been doing to date hasn’t worked to steer the response to that scale of crisis,” he said.

“To be honest, that goes back to the late 80s… the basic science hasn’t changed that much [so] that’s almost three and a half decades that we haven’t been changing things.

“I’m very conscious of that because I’ve been involved for those 35 years. I joined the Green Party in 1988.

“We’ve been banging on this drum for those 35 years and not delivering the scale of public response that one would expect, given the self-evident reality of the crisis.”

Minister Ryan said the “unravelling of the natural systems on which our security depends” means the world is at a “moment when disaster is one step further in the direction we’re heading depends”, but that there is also “hope” in the “alternative path which is also available to us”.

Oisín Coghlan, the chief executive of Friends of the Earth, also spoke at the conference about the magnitude of the challenge that comes with discussing climate change and campaigning for action.

“My name is Oisín, and I’m scared. That’s the first time I’ve said that out loud in relation to climate change,” he said.

“I’ve seen role over the last 18 years in Friends of the Earth as being the reasonable voice of environmentalism, the reasonable voice of the climate movement -  appealing to reason, appealing to enlightened self-interest, framing the issue in a way that would move the dial for, if not quite middle Ireland, then the progressive centre, and our politicians who might feel that couldn’t move without being able to appeal to that progressive centre.

“That affected how I talked about climate, probably even affected I thought about this, and probably even affected how I felt about it.

But the honest truth is that that’s not worked. It hasn’t worked politically. It hasn’t worked in terms of our emissions, at least not either of those things at the scale of the urgency we need.

“And actually, now, I’m finding it isn’t working personally. It isn’t possible to keep the struggle and the sentiment apart, the climate anxiety that I successfully compartmentalised for a decade or more is increasingly intruding into my life and into my feelings,” Coghlan told the conference.

He said that “climate breakdown is here and now – it’s no longer remote in time or place”.

However, “the majority of Irish people or people around the world are not seeing it yet as a threat requires any form of sacrifice – or inconvenience, really, let alone sacrifice”.

Referencing a newspaper article that reported on a wind farm in terms of disrupting views, he said that “there’s nobody in Kyiv complaining about the view being spoiled by the Patriot missile systems defending their city that weren’t there a year ago, because they recognise and we recognise an existential threat to Ukrainian sovereignty and democracy from the illegal, immoral Russian invasion”.

“The threat we face collectively on the planetary scale and to human civilization – we’re not seeing the threat, we’re not understanding it, and we’re not responding as a state with an emergency response.”

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