Global warming has left no country unscathed and in Ireland, we’ve experienced a rise in temperature, rain, and sea levels. Here we look at how consumers can easily lower their carbon footprint.
Ireland has a target to achieve a 51% emissions reduction by 2030, and has hopes to reach net zero by 2050.
With these ambitious goals in place, we decided to explore what impact climate change has had on Ireland, and how you as a consumer can play your part in creating a sustainable future.
What is the issue we’re facing?
Climate change has resulted in a change in global temperatures, but has also increased the frequency and intensity of extreme weather and climate events.
Our disregard for our planet has led to global warming, which occurs when harmful pollutants (greenhouse gases) collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation. This trapped heat results in our planet getting hotter.
According to the European Commission, 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record, and alarming data also shows that 2020 was also the warmest year on record for Europe.
What exactly does climate change mean for Ireland?
Climate change has resulted in several repercussions for Ireland, some of which are made worse by the fact we are an island country.
Rise in temperature
While most Irish people would love to experience warmer weather and more frequent sunshine, we don’t want it to come at the expense of the planet.
Scientific models that project climate change trends predict that Ireland’s average temperatures could rise by 2°C by the end of the 21st century.
Since 1900 alone, temperatures in Ireland have increased by 0.8°C and by the middle of this century (2041-2060) the average annual temperatures are projected to increase by between 1-1.2°C and 1.3-1.6°C.
Between 1981 and 2010, Ireland experienced an increase in average annual national rainfall of approximately 60mm, the equivalent of 5%, compared to the 30-year period between 1961-1990.
In the coming years, it’s predicted that heavy rainfall will substantially increase in Winter and Autumn, by approximately 20%.
Rising sea levels
Another destructive effect of climate change that Ireland will experience is rising sea levels, which goes hand-in-hand with global warming. Rising sea levels increase coastal erosion and elevate storm surges.
There are two main reasons why sea levels rise:
- Thermal expansion
This is caused by the warming of the ocean. As seawater expands as it gets warmer, the volume of the water increases.
- Melting glaciers and ice
Ice acts as a protector for our planet. It reflects excess heat into space and keeps the planet cooler.
Due to global warming, ice and glaciers are melting at a frightful rate. As glaciers are on land, when they melt this water runs into our oceans, causing sea levels to rise.
With 40% of Ireland’s population living within 5km of the coast, it’s distressing to witness unrelenting rising sea levels and flooding.
Recent data has shown that both Dublin and Cork have been subject to unexpected sea level rises:
- In Dublin, the sea level is rising faster than anticipated at approximately double the rate of global sea level rise.
- It’s estimated that extreme coastal water levels would put 23,435 properties in Dublin at risk over the coming years, and the county will see an increase in flooding over the next 20 to 30 years.
- Rising sea levels are causing increased resistance from insurance companies to provide cover for coastal homes in Dublin, with homes in Clontarf, Malahide and Portmarnock being deemed the riskiest to insure.
- A 2021 study looked at sea level rise since 1842 in Cork. It found that relative sea levels had risen by over 40cm, nearly 50% more than the 27cm expected for the region.
Government targets to combat climate change
Last year, the Government released their Climate Action Plan, which sets out Ireland’s climate targets and goals to achieve over the coming years. You can learn all about the Climate Action Plan here.
Combating climate change is a collaborative effort, and isn’t down to any one industry. As such, the Government set targets and called for each sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
The targets are as follows:
- 25% cut for agriculture
- 75% cut for electricity
- 50% cut for transport
- 45% cut for commercial and public buildings
- 40% cut for residential buildings
- 35% cut in the industry
So, what can consumers do?
According to a survey carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year, 73% of adults stated that they had made changes or had taken steps to help the environment. However, more needs to be done.
There’s a range of helpful measures consumers can take to lower their carbon footprint and make a positive change.
1. Reduce your waste
One of the easiest ways to live more sustainably is to reduce your waste. Here are some ways to do so:
- Try to minimise food waste and use leftovers where possible
- Use a reusable bottle or cup for drinks on-the-go
- Purchase products with less packaging and that can be recycled
- Avoid single-use food and drink packaging and utensils
- Buy secondhand clothes or items and donate used goods
- Reduce your use of paper and cancel any unnecessary post you may get, e.g. newsletters, regular bank statements, etc. in favour of online alternatives
2. Buy an EV
If you’re in the market for a new car and your budget permits it, consider purchasing an electric vehicle. While the outright cost to purchase an EV is high, they’re cheaper to run than petrol and diesel cars, so it evens out.
There is a range of Government initiatives and grants available to help you with your purchase, and even with the installation of a home charger.
3. Retrofit your home
Again, not a particularly cheap option, but retrofitting your home can not only help you reduce your carbon emissions, but it can save you money on your energy bills in the long run and can make your home more comfortable.
From insulating your walls or installing solar panels, to getting a heat pump, there are a variety of options that will suit different households.
And the good news is that the SEAI has a range of helpful grants to aid you in the process.
4. Save energy at home
You can easily conserve money and save on your energy bills simultaneously by changing your habits at home.
- Changing to LED lightbulbs
- Unplugging appliances when not in use
- Turning the thermostat down
- Buy more energy-efficient appliances
- Tackling droughts
5. Consider other modes of transport
If you’re someone who drives everywhere, consider using alternative modes of transport. If going somewhere nearby, walking or cycling is a more environmentally friendly and economical option.
Under the Climate Action Plan, the Government is expanding our public transport network with low emission alternatives, which will allow people to avail of improved services and lower their carbon footprint.
Also, consider hopping on a bike to commute to work. With many companies participating in the Cycle to Work scheme, there are great benefits to be had.
For a full list of ways to reduce your carbon footprint and save money, check out this article.
Become more energy-conscious today
Whether you choose to sign up to a green energy deal, invest in solar panels or read as much material on climate change as you can, every step you take to help Ireland secure a greener future will make a difference.
So to ensure you are informed about Ireland's plans to tackle climate change, make sure to check out our range of other enviromental articles:
- Discover all you need to know about Ireland’s Climate Action Plan here.
- Read about the future of renewable energy in Ireland in this guide.
- Unsure about what a circular economy is? Find out what you need to know.
- As we strive towards a greener future, it’s vital to explore alternative energy sources. Learn about the ins and outs of hydrogen energy here.
Let’s hear from you
Have you started to take steps to lower your carbon footprint? We’d love to hear from you.