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This Sunday, Dublin, Cork and Belfast will join over 150 cities around the world in hosting climate marches, where people will call on political leaders sign a global agreement to tackle climate change at the UN Climate Summit that begins the following day in Paris.
Trócaire volunteers stage the UN Climate Summit on Dollymount Strand to highlight the rise in sea levels during 20 years of failed climate negotiations.
Here’s five reasons why you should join the marches on Sunday.
Ireland has suffered extensive storm damage over the last number of years, and it is only going to get worse.
The most recent flooding came last month when the River Lee burst its banks and badly flooded parts of Cork. The previous month, millions of euro worth of damage was done in West Cork by floods. Huge money is being invested in flood plans for Cork due to the increased frequency of rivers bursting their banks in the county.
But it’s not just Cork that is at risk. Waterford and Galway are two other urban centres at high risk of flooding, while Dublin has also seen regular flood events.
Coastal areas of Dublin such as the Docklands, Sandymount and Clontarf have experienced bad flooding over recent years, as have many inland areas, such as Kilmainham and Harold’s Cross, due to rivers and canals bursting their banks. Experts such as Professor John Sweeney of Maynooth University warn that these flood events are set to become more frequent over coming years as sea levels rise and increased amounts of rain falls in short periods of time.
A report released earlier this year listed 24 areas of Dublin as being particularly vulnerable. Minister Simon Harris says Ireland needs to invest €100m a year in flood defences. That will mean more walls like the sort that is currently causing controversy in Clontarf.
Since 2000, an estimated €700m has been paid out by insurance companies over flooding around the country, and that figure is set to rise dramatically as the frequency of floods increases.
People often view responding to climate change as having negative impacts on their lives but there are many potential positives that can make our cities better places to live.
Transport – along with energy and agriculture – is one of the ‘big three’ sectors that account for Ireland’s greenhouse gas pollution. Reducing the footprint of our transport sector will involve massively investing in public transport, making the city safer for cyclists and encouraging people to live in the city centre where they are less dependent on cars, thus reducing traffic and making our cities more ‘people focused’.
This shift in attitudes towards urban life could revitalise huge areas of our cities, bringing people and businesses into currently neglected areas.
You often hear people say it: ‘We’re just a small country, nothing we do matters until China, India and America tackle the problem.’
That argument misses the point spectacularly.
On a per capita basis, we are the 36th highest polluters in the world, higher than China or India. In fact, our emissions are so off the charts that each Irish person emits as much 80 people in sub-Saharan Africa.
If we don’t take responsibility, why should others?
It is accepted that the world is going to have to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy during the first half of this century. That gives enormous potential for jobs and investment in Ireland.
Ireland currently spends approximately €6bn per year importing fossil fuels, leaving us with one of the highest import dependency levels in the EU. In order to meet EU targets, we are simply going to have to divert increasing amounts of that money into the Irish renewable market.
It is estimated that the renewable energy sector should create 50,000 direct jobs in Ireland, while improving energy efficiency in the residential sector could create 7,000 jobs.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) last year estimated that the renewable energy sector in Ireland had saved the country €1bn over five years.
People dig for water in a dried-up river in northern Kenya. Droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe in the region.
5. Because it’s the right thing to do
There are lots of internally focused reasons to care about climate change, but the biggest reason of all is that hundreds of millions of people around the world are suffering its impacts right now.
The damage we see from occasional floods is nothing compared with the chaos being inflicted across Africa, Asia and the Latin America. At the moment, 8.2 million people in Ethiopia and 2.8 million people in Malawi are experiencing severe food shortages due to drought.
This is the brutal reality of rising temperatures and prolonged drought – these are the people we are marching for.