Ireland’s changing climate is projected to result in wide ranging economic and societal impacts

Date released: Dec 07 2017

 Ireland’s changing climate is projected to result in wide ranging economic and societal impacts


“Observations of the atmosphere, oceans and land show that Ireland’s climate is changing. The observed scale and rate of change is similar to global trends. These changes are projected to continue and increase over the coming decades,” said Dr Margaret Desmond, lead author of one of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research reports being launched today by Mr Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment at the EPA Seminar on Climate Change Research.

Commenting on the report ‘A Summary of the State of Knowledge on Climate Change Impacts for Ireland’, Laura Burke, Director General, EPA, said,


“Ireland needs to prepare for the local impacts of global climate change. The State of Knowledge Report provides an important overview of projected impacts for key economic, social and environmental sectors. This type of information helps us to plan for a  climate resilient future. Ireland is also committed to large scale decarbonisation of electricity generation, transport and residential heating by 2050. This is a necessary contribution to addressing the causes of climate change, as is enhancing the uptake to carbon in our forests and soils. Valuable insights on addressing these challenges are contained in the other reports also being launched today.”

Dr Margaret Desmond, University College Cork, lead author of the state of knowledge report said,


“The first State of Knowledge Report on climate change was published in 2009.   Today the impacts of global climate change for Ireland are clearer and more compelling. Trends are apparent in the temperature, precipitation records as well as in sea level rise and changing ecosystems.  Climate projections indicate that these trends will continue but uncertainties remain on the details. The effectiveness of global actions to limit the extent of global climate change remains a key uncertainty.”

The report highlights that a range of adaptation options exist. These can reduce vulnerability and build resilience to a changing climate. Planned management of the associated impacts is necessary to reduce their adverse impacts in a cost-effective manner.

Laura Burke said,

  “Research plays a key role in increasing our understanding of ongoing changes and in informing responses. Adaptation is a necessary component of Ireland’s response to climate change to protect communities, manage risks from climate impacts, and strengthen the resilience of the economy. Adaptation actions to reduce our vulnerability to the impacts of climate change need to make sense from an economic and environmental perspective and to contribute to our sustainable development.  Substantial reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases are also needed - in Ireland, Europe and globally - if we are to achieve the Paris Agreement goals and limit the rate and extent of climate change to a manageable level.”

The other research reports being launched aim to inform mitigation actions and explore synergies between actions to address air quality and climate change. These include Irish-Times on achievement of a low emission energy system by 2050, GAINS Ireland which links climate and air quality analyses and on the challenges associated with afforestation in Ireland.


Notes to Editor:

The report ‘A Summary of the State of Knowledge on Climate Change Impacts for Ireland’ combines information from a range of studies undertaken by third level institutions, Met Éireann and other government agencies, as well as material from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report is aimed at stakeholders interested in or working on adaptation and provides them with options to access more detailed analysis. Adaptation options and gaps in knowledge are also outlined.

The report’s findings include:

  • An increase in mean annual temperatures in Ireland by 0.8°C since 1900. The decadal trend is 0.07°C averaged over the period 1900–2011.  An increase of 1–1.6°C is projected by mid-century, with the largest increases occurring in the east of the country. 
  • All seasons are warmer than the 1961–1990 average, and are projected to be significantly warmer by mid-century.
  • Average annual rainfall has increased by approximately 60 mm or 5% in the period 1981– 2010, compared with the 30-year period 1961–1990.  In general, the larger increases in rainfall are recorded in the western half of the country.
  • Significant changes in seasonal rainfall patterns are projected by mid-century including drier summer conditions but these are uncertain. 
  • Projected changes in the frequency of extreme events include fewer but more intense storms. 
  • An increase in winter flooding is observed for the period 1954–2008 due to an increase in winter mean flows. Increasing seasonality in flooding is projected with increases in winter and spring stream flows and a decrease in the summer. 
  • Sea level continues to rise: Since the early 1990s sea level rise of about 3.5 cm per decade has been observed. Pre-1990 data show a lower rate of increase of 1–2 cm per decade. These observations are consistence with expected acceleration in sea level rise due to climate change.  
  • Sea level rise is projected to continue until the end of the century and beyond, with  best-case scenarios indicating and additional increases of between 55–60 cm.  Sea level rise will amplify the impacts of storm surges and wave erosion in coastal areas.
  • Climate change is projected to impact all socio, economic and environmental systems; The research outlines a range of impacts and adaptation responses for key socio economic sectors including critical infrastructure, the built environment, agriculture, coastal areas, forestry and biodiversity.
  • A wide range of adaptation responses exist that can address current and emerging vulnerability and increase resilience to climate change.

21st Century Deforestation in Ireland:

Authors: John Devaney, John Redmond, Brian Barrett, Grace Cott and John O’Halloran

The project: National Forest Inventory Support - Developing Methods to Track Forestry Related Land Use Change is a study of deforestation in Ireland. Deforestation could have a significant impact on forest related emissions in Ireland and therefore needs to be part of the consideration of how to achieve the 2050 carbon neutrality goal for Agriculture and Land Use.  The study created a national deforestation map for the period 2000–2012, characterised the extent and nature of deforestation events, assessed how these are accounted and also piloted the use of advanced satellite systems which may assist in doing future analysis.

Climate and Air Policy in Ireland: Synergies and Tensions – A GAINS Ireland and Irish TIMES analysis.

Authors: Andrew Kelly, Alessandro Chiodi, Miao Fu, Paul Deane and Brian P. Ó Gallachóir

National models of air quality and energy provided were linked to provide a combined analysis of air quality and climate targets. Many measures to combat climate change may have impacts on air quality. This collaborative research considered links to air quality and the associated health and environmental impacts. It highlighted specific issues in respect of increasing share of diesel vehicles in the national fleet, and the growth of biomass combustion in the residential and industrial sectors. Identification of these issues will inform the design of policy and regulation, and investment in alternative or additional technologies, to avoid or reduce negative impacts.

Irish TIMES Energy Systems Model Phase 2

Authors: Paul Deane, Alessandro Chiodi and Brian Ó Gallachóir

The Irish TIMES model is full energy systems model for Ireland which can project energy scenarios to 2050. The model is uniquely able to provide cross sectoral analysis to inform and support climate and energy policy. This project explored links between electricity supply and agricultural land use. This is used to explore emissions pathways to 2050.

Development of an Irish Climate Information Platform (ICIP)Phase 2.

Authors: Barry O’ Dwyer and Jeremy Gault 

The Development of an Irish Climate Information Platform (ICIP) – Phase 2 builds on the earlier Phase 1 or “Discovery” element in the development a Climate Information Platform (ICIP) for Ireland. The platform would support assessment of climate change impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation options and thereby adaptation decision making. A partnership approach was used to bridge the gap between data providers and end users and decision support tools were developed to support users in developing their assessment of impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation options.