UN Panel on Climate Change Releases Scary Report & We Need To Do More

Just two years ago, amid celebrations and excessive PR, the Paris climate accords were signed and we discussed the topic on this very website at the time of the event itself— bringing optimism across the globe, as to the future of climate change and how we, as a planet, would tackle the challenge and make efforts to secure our future on earth.

The goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius was almost immediately shot down by experts as too much and that target itself was completely inadequate.

Now, it’s 2018 and in those two short years, optimism was dropped. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming new report, alluding to how a 1.5° C raise as opposed to 2° C would make a massive difference. A difference that would affect the lives of millions of people. Continuing on our current path, the 1.5° C rise will happen by 2040! It will manifest itself in extreme weather events as well as other drastic changes. All coral reefs would die out, wildfires and heatwaves would sweep the planet and the fluctuations between drought and flooding would severely impact our ability to produce food.

Even here in Ireland, we are seeing these changes happen and the damage they cause. Take our storms over the last 18 months, they are packing more of a punch and happening more often.

Avoiding all of this can’t happen slowly. 2040 is a lot closer than we think! 22 years from now. Remember Riverdance in 1994, that was 24 years ago… You hear people say “where does the time go?” – well, it just passes. With time passing, things tend to passively happen. We cannot passively let our economies continue in the manner that they do. The solar PV grant was announced this year and the household micro-generation it supports is a small measure that can help Ireland towards neutralising and eliminating our carbon footprint, but so much more has to be done.

We need to embrace change. We need to embrace technology. We need to embrace these challenges all over Ireland, together. It is one of the only truly global issues that no one country can eliminate for themselves and not for others. Countries can solve housing issues, poverty, food shortages, wars and more despite the fact that the same issues can exist right across their nearest border. Climate change, global temperatures, extreme weather events will all happen unless we all work towards a cleaner future. It’s unfortunate that other issues can bring the world closer together but our climate challenges cannot. I suppose everyone has to start somewhere, be it renewable energy, cutting down on waste by recycling, burning fewer fossil fuels, using less. That is what we should aim for in Ireland for now. The Irish government has started with renewable energy grants such as this year’s Solar PV and pre-existing supports through the SEAI but this progress should only be backed up with more progression and give citizens the tools and resources to tackle climate change the length and breadth of Ireland, from Mizen Head to Malin Head, Dublin Port to Westport.


Stumbling Towards Solar PV Incentives In Ireland

As a key stakeholder in the Irish Solar Industry, this week is a very interesting one indeed.

Today I travel to a number of meetings with many like-minded people within my industry, to see if we can form a strong, stable and exciting incentive to help us move past the label of Europe’s solar laggards.

Tomorrow I travel to Munich, to Intersolar 2018, where I can discuss with our peers in Europe, suppliers and engineers alike on the deemed successes of solar throughout the continent in the past and the products and strategies of the future.

To see where our industry sits at this moment in time we should see the successes achieved both by us and by our nearest neighbours – Northern Ireland. SEAI have done a great job spreading the word of sustainability throughout Ireland, with grants for almost every useful upgrading measure available. To this end, energy conservation and renewable production has almost become glamorous! You need look no further than Diarmuid Gavin on a Sunday afternoon on RTE to realise that triple glazing, insulation and heatpumps are the fashionable things to go for. When it comes to Solar Thermal, SEAI have truly done their part also. We have upgraded thousands of homes through the grant scheme, and thousands of others simply through the knock on effect of testimonials, advocating the effectiveness of established solar homes. Great products, services and savings are infectious, but sometimes need a push to get over the hump of inertia. In this context, Northern Ireland have taken an approach to incentivise Solar PV. From simply driving the road from Dundalk to Castleblayney, you can see the effects from one incentivised region to another.

For those not familiar with the N53, it turns into the A37 (NI) for 5.4 kilometres. As you drive this small stretch of road, you can see what a difference the PV incentive has made. You will see both social and private housing with systems installed, as well as numerous businesses from petrol stations to bars and shops. All reducing the electricity purchased from the grid, saving money and doing their bit for the environment. Then as you move further down the road onto the N53 again you can see domestic customers availing of solar thermal again in the Republic.

A small PV incentive, similar to that which homeowners can obtain for solar thermal in Ireland would put us in a position to catch up with our European counterparts in the renewable stakes. We already have the governing body in place, along with mechanisms to roll this out extremely efficiently. We have checks in place for trade specific qualifications and insurances to ensure the customer is using a properly vetted company. We already have the vehicles in place to do quality insurance inspections to ensure only high quality installers remain on this grant list. We even have an efficient way of trading carbon credits which could also subsidise installation costs in place. Leaving us with 2 roadblocks;

  1. The lack of an incentive in place for solar PV
  2. The lack of planning foresight for Solar PV, as we are still working from exemptions with solar thermal in mind

Change is difficult. Enacting mass change is harder again. Indecision, plodding progress and fear of change is what has us as Europe’s laggards. On a technology that has proven itself throughout European countries for over a decade now. This stumbling progress to date, has left us second from bottom on a list produced by Europe’s largest NGO coalition Climate Action Network (CAN) on Monday just past (18th June 2018) of countries and their progress toward their 2020 goals. However, the aforementioned structures and processes that we already have in place, allows me to look at the current solar landscape and our ability to move forward with solar PV with positivity.

Ciaran Marron
CEO


Post Ophelia & Beast From The East: New Data Confirms Increased Frequency of Extreme Weather Events

Further action urged by European National Science Academies on climate change adaptation.

EUROPEAN ACADEMIES' SCIENCE ADVISORY COUNCIL

 

New data unveiled this week show that extreme weather events have become more frequent over the past 36 years, with a significant uptick in floods and other hydrological events compared even with five years ago, according to a new publication, "Extreme weather events in Europe: Preparing for climate change adaptation: an update on EASAC's 2013 study" by the European Academies' Science Advisory Council (EASAC), a body made up of 27 national science academies in the European Union, Norway, and Switzerland. Given the increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, the EASAC calls for stronger attention to climate change adaptation across the European Union.

Brexit may be taking up a lot of Irish – European discussions, but we must not only raise the issue at that level, we must act on it intrinsically and support renewable energy sources and climate change efforts here in Ireland itself before lecturing elsewhere. It is up to our leaders and policy-makers to improve the adaptability of our own infrastructure and social systems to a changing climate. I think the appetite in Ireland for this is growing given the recent effects of both Storm Ophelia and the “Beast From The East”.

Natural Disasters Graph

Trends in different types of natural catastrophes worldwide 1980-2016 (1980 levels set at 100%)

Around the world, according to the new data released, the number of floods and other hydrological events have quadrupled since 1980 and have doubled since 2004, highlighting the urgency of adaptation to climate change as the frequency worsens! Climatological events, such as extreme temperatures, droughts, and forest fires, have more than doubled since 1980. Meteorological events, such as storms, have doubled since 1980, you can see this in the photo above. These extreme weather events carry substantial economic costs. In the updated data, thunderstorm losses in North America have doubled - from under US$10 billion in 1980 to almost $20 billion in 2015 and yet the USA and the Trump administration, which we criticised in the past here at Activ8, continue to cut funding for the EPA and climate change initiatives as well pulled out of the Paris COP 21 agreement. On a more positive note, river flood losses in Europe show a near-static trend (despite their increased frequency), indicating that protection measures that have been implemented may have stemmed flood losses. Once again, it may be up to Europe to lead the way.

Professor Michael Norton, EASAC's Environment Programme Director states, "Our 2013 Extreme Weather Events report - which was based on the findings of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute - has been updated and the latest data supports our original conclusions: there has been and continues to be a significant increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, making climate proofing all the more urgent. Adaptation and mitigation must remain the cornerstones of tackling climate change. This update is most timely since the European Commission is due to release its evaluation of its climate strategy this year."

Is a contemporary shutdown of the Gulf Stream (AMOC) possible?

The update also reviews evidence on key drivers of extreme events. A major point of debate remains whether the Gulf Stream, or Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), will just decline or could 'switch off' entirely with substantial implications for Northwest Europe's climate. Recent monitoring does suggest a significant weakening but debate continues over whether the gulf stream may "switch off" as a result of the increased flows of fresh water from northern latitude rainfall and melting of the Greenland icecap. EASAC notes the importance of continuing to use emerging oceanographic monitoring data to provide a more reliable forecast of impacts of global warming on the AMOC. The update also notes the recent evidence which suggests an association between the rapid rate of Arctic warming and extreme cold events further south (including in Europe and the Eastern USA) due to a weakened and meandering jet stream.

For us here in Ireland, the devastation that these recent weather events have caused show go a long way to showing us that everyone is being and will continue to be effected by global warming and climate change as a result. If everyone can recognise as much, maybe it's time we all collectively demanded better climate change action from those in power and make the decision to help improve things on a smaller scale. We can't pawn this problem off to future generations, we need to tackle it as quickly as possible. If not today, or tomorrow, maybe The Day After Tomorrow (Pun intended).