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Ireland's greenhouse gases reach highest in recorded history - report

Methane emissions have increased by 170% compared to pre-industrial levels.

Image: Shutterstock/Lukassek

IRELAND’S GREENHOUSE GASES were at their highest in 2019 of any recorded level, a new Irish climate report has found.

Measurements of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide taken at Mace Head in Galway in 2019 are the highest amount seen since measurements began.

A joint report released today from the Environmental Protection Agency, Met Éireann and the Marine Institute with researchers from the MaRei Centre and UCC looks at the status of Ireland’s climate and our atmosphere, oceans and landscape. 

Since the pre-industrial era, carbon dioxide concentrations are 50% higher than in the pre-industrial era, nitrous oxide concentrations are 20% higher – and methane, which comes largely from livestock, has increased by 170%.

However, concentrations of chlorofluorocarbons – chemicals most often found in products like aerosol sprays or refrigerants – have been falling since 2004 after a ban against their production and use in 1989.

Similarly, atmospheric sulfur levels reduced by 80% between 1980 and 2015, “highlighting the success of regulation and technological advances”.

EPA director general Laura Burke said that climate observations “provide the basis for our understanding of the realities of climate change here in Ireland, in Europe, and globally”.

She said the report “brings together the evidence of the changes that have occurred across Ireland’s environment, from both long term detailed measurements on our land and in our oceans and atmosphere and from linked data from satellite observations from programmes such as Copernicus”.

The report’s key conclusion is that there is clear evidence that global climate changes mean Ireland has become “warmer and wetter”.

Air Temperature Ireland Mean annual increase or decrease in air temperature compared to average recorded between 1961 and 1990 Source: The Status of Ireland's Climate 2020

Ireland’s annual average surface air temperature has increased by 0.9 degrees Celsius over the last 120 years and the number of warm spell days has increased slightly in the last 60 years.

Precipitation – rain, snow and hail – was 6% higher from 1989 to 2018 compared to the previous thirty years and the decade from 2006 to 2015 was the wettest on record.

“Analysis of wet and dry spells demonstrates an increase in the length of wet spell days across the country. No trend is apparent in dry spell days,” the report says.

The sea level in Dublin Bay has risen 1.7mm per year since 1938, while around Ireland, seas have risen by approximately 2-3mm per year since the early 1990s.

The average sea surface temperature (measured at Malin Head) was 0.47 degrees Celsius higher in the last ten years than the thirty years beforehand, and our seas are becoming more acidic at a rate comparable to changes seen globally.

The report found that “observations of some potentially harmful phytoplankton species since 1990 show an expansion of their growth season, with their presence being observed in almost all winter months since 2010″.

Tweet by @EPA Ireland Source: EPA Ireland/Twitter

Met Éireann director Eoin Moran said that “as citizens in Ireland and around the world are now seeing the impacts of climate change, through evermore extreme weather events, fires and flooding etc; high quality observations of the climate are crucial to help inform society’s response to the Climate Emergency”.

“Scientific long-term monitoring of the climate underpins climate research and the development of climate services which support policy making and decision making in the face of the urgency of the climate crisis.”

Earlier this week, a major report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that the scale of changes to the climate system is “unprecedented” and that humans are the main driver of temperature rises.

However, it’s not too late to limit or reverse some of the negative consequences of climate change, it said.

Significant and sustained reductions in emissions are crucial to prevent further rises in global temperatures.

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Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said there is “ever greater certainty about climate change and ever greater urgency about the need to tackle it”.

“Strong and sustained reductions in emissions of C02 and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change,” Ryan said.

“We know what we have to do. We now need to harness a national and global effort to do it.”

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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