Ireland’s Responsibility to the Environment

With a climate change denier leading the USA, Ross Walsh asks how Ireland should be tackling the issue of global warming.[br]“THE concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”. This statement, tweeted by the current American President Donald Trump on the 6th of November, 2012, is unfortunately indicative of his overall policy towards climate change, the environment, and our planet as a whole.Trump and his administration have become figureheads for the push back against established climate science. His supporters do not care if their descendants will suffer because of the damage we are currently doing to the environment. They maintain an ignorant attitude that insists as long as they have jobs now, the future of the Earth is inconsequential.Within a few days of his inauguration, Trump had issued a gag order on Federal employees who might have access to climate research. Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture were legally forbidden from posting on social media or providing information to the press, while climate scientists were banned from discussing their work outside of scientific journals.More recently, the Trump administration approved the continuation of the Keystone XL pipeline, reversing the Obama administration’s decision to block the project. Trump has also begun dismantling Obama’s Clean Power Plan, all in the name of creating an appearance of being the ‘jobs President’.However, the creation of jobs means nothing without a habitable planet for people to live and work on. And our planet is dying a slow death. The emissions caused by human activity, industry, farming and transport are heating the planet by trapping the sun’s energy. Despite what many Trump supporters, and many more fossil fuel corporations, will tell you, greenhouse gases, global warming, and climate change are not simply theories. They are hard scientific facts that we cannot ignore.In March, it was reported that Arctic Sea ice had dropped to its lowest levels on record. The warming of our oceans has already killed off huge chunks of The Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The Golden Toad of Central America, among other species, has already gone extinct due to climate change, and up to 700 other endangered species of mammal, reptile, bird and fish are under threat from a climate changing far too fast for them to adapt to.
“The creation of jobs means nothing without a habitable planet for people to live and work on”
The ever increasing population of humans is helping to drive the quickening of nature’s climate cycle. There are currently seven and a half billion people now living on the planet, and no signs that global population increases will slow down any time soon. Greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide from factories and vehicles, and methane from livestock farming, are increasing at a rate just as alarming as that of the human population.On top of this, to create more room for agriculture and living space, humans are clearing vast areas of forest, rainforest, and jungle, diminishing the capacity of the trees in these environments to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The pollution of the environment from human waste also contributes greatly to the deaths of various animals and the destruction of their habitats.How does Ireland fit into a world struggling to cope with the repercussions of climate change? Despite huge pushes towards the use of alternative energy sources in this country, as it stands, only 8.6% of energy consumption here comes from renewable sources. Compared to countries such as Sweden, where 54.1% of energy production comes from renewables, Ireland does not appear to be carrying its weight in the fight to halt climate change.If we fail to meet a target of 16% of our energy being produced from sources such as wind, solar, biomass etc. by 2020, the state is looking at huge fines from the European Union that could potentially cost hundreds of millions of euro. Moreover, the Irish agricultural industry, with its heavy reliance on beef and dairy farming, has been described as neither economically or environmentally sustainable, and a large hindrance in the country’s efforts to curb our greenhouse gas emissions.
“As it stands only 8.6% of energy consumption here comes from renewable sources”
On the ground, the drive does appear to be present to try and protect the environment. Barry Murphy, who was elected as next year’s C&C Officer for UCDSU, made increased environmental awareness a large part of his campaign.Hopefully this will translate into this generation going forward and, unlike Trump’s America, putting an emphasis on ensuring the continuing habitability of our planet for many future generations to come. Each and every individual has a role to play in stopping climate change. This stretches from developing new and more efficient methods of producing renewable energy, to overhauling Ireland’s environmentally disastrous agriculture sector to campaigning to affect environmental policy.In billions of years, our sun will die and take Earth with it. Until then, this is the only home we have and we cannot continue to abuse it as we currently are.