16 May 2022

Kildare ‘highly vulnerable’ to climate change says leading Maynooth professor

Senan Hogan reports that a leading expert has warned of floods and biodiversity loss in Kildare

Kildare ‘highly vulnerable’ to climate change says leading Maynooth professor

Prof John Sweeney

Kildare remains highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, especially in terms of water supply, flooding and biodiversity loss, according to a Maynooth University expert.

A leading expert, Emeritus Prof John Sweeney of the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units (ICARUS) said that solar and wind energy represents a huge opportunity for the county.

Prof Sweeney made his comments as the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying and that strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide are required urgently to limit the damage to the planet.

Prof Sweeney said: “Kildare remains highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, especially in terms of water supply, flooding and biodiversity loss.

“This will increase further as more of the county is rendered impervious to drainage via urban expansion.”

In reference to wild fires, the academic added: “Upland areas adjoining the Wicklow Mountains are likely to see biodiversity losses associated with stresses on cold loving plants and animals and the extension of invasive species. Wild fires in upland areas will increasingly become a problem.

“Climate change will threaten some of the natural and built heritage assets of Kildare, such as wetlands and archaeological features.”

The hard-hitting IPCC report firmly pointed the finger of blame at human behaviour and said scientists are observing unprecedented changes in every region and across the whole climate system.

The planet is warmer, Arctic ice is shrinking, and sea levels are rising.

Prof Sweeney said that a general examination of Kildare as a county shows that it is probably very representative of eastern Ireland as a whole.

He continued: “The large commuter population can look forward to improved public transport links with the extension of DART westwards and a growing capability to work from home, since most Kildare commuters are employed in service industries.

“The application of improved building standards to housing development in the county will also assist energy efficiency measures.

“Opportunities for bogland rewetting are substantial in Kildare and can restore ecosystem health and biodiversity if carried out at scale.”

The Maynooth University expert said agriculture will remain the chief problem in reducing emissions and the trend towards intensification and enclosed feedlots will be highly negative in terms of emissions reductions and place and, if not tackled, place an “undue burden on other sectors of society in Kildare to play their part in meeting obligatory legal national targets.”

However, Prof Sweeney said opportunities for renewable energy on disused boglands via solar and wind farms will offer significant further potential in Kildare.

He added: “Good community structures will facilitate local initiatives in energy and transport.

“These will offer opportunities for local energy developments and decarbonisation zones.

“The ending of all peat extraction is essential for Kildare to offer future offset opportunities for other activities such as agriculture.”

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