Following Storm Desmond battering Ireland over the weekend and the major flooding and the millions of dollars worth of damage that ensued, new data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that the risk to many of the world’s coastal cities and towns is such that could make this week’s storm flooding look like an April shower.
As Ireland is an island it will be particularly hard hit. Within 200 years, according to some forecasts, parts of the country may be underwater.
Coastal cities are one of the many areas that may come under threat from rising sea levels, although some places may be more susceptible to permanent flooding than others. The maps below look at some of the biggest coastal towns and cities in Ireland showing the effects of a 3.6° F increase in global temperature compared to a 7.2°F increase.
Ireland’s capital Dublin will experience one of the greatest losses due to increases in sea level, according to the maps. As well as affecting the effect of the encroaching waters from the Irish Sea, the River Liffey will swell, submerging regions along its banks.
Cork on the Atlantic coast will lose land along the banks of the River Lee. The River Lagan will burst its current banks and spread throughout Belfast.
Galway and Limerick, also on the Atlantic coast, will see their coastlines push further and further back as the water levels rise along the west.
Research from the panel shows that throughout the 20th century the global average sea level rose by 0.06 inch per year, although further data collected via satellite since the 1990s concludes that it now stands at 0.1 inch per year.
Researchers believe that this rise in the global sea level is caused by two main factors, which are both in turn a result of global warming and climate change: the melting of the polar ice caps and the expansion of seawater as the world’s temperature rises.
The panel believes that should this continue, sea levels may rise by between 11.8 inches and 19.6 inches around the world by the end of the century, putting many coastal cities, towns and islands at risk of permanent flooding.
The way in which sea levels rise, however, is not completely uniform, according to the Panel’s findings, and some regions are in fact experiencing a decrease in sea levels while others face a rise greater than the global average.
The panel states that if pollution remains unchecked the sea level increase could reach five feet in Dublin by as early as 2140 (i.e. 5 ft above the local high tide line).
If we implement extreme carbon cuts, however, this could be brought back to 2170, with a likelihood that it would happen after 2200.
Previous research from National Geographic has shown that if the polar ice caps continue to melt at the same speed, two-thirds of the region of Connacht would be submerged as the sea-level would rise by 66 meters.
Despite the effects on the Irish coastline, Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny last week called the European Union’s targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture sector, in particular, as “unrealistic.”
During his three-minute speech at the COP21 global summit in Paris – the 21st annual climate conference – Kenny placed the blame of Ireland’s failure to meet the climate change goals put in place by the EU on the decade-long financial challenges the country faced.
He told the international leaders and politicians in attendance that Ireland would need “time and space” in order to meet the 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 while maintaining its position as a producer of high quality food.
“Ireland’s national long-term vision is presented in climate legislation, which sets out our intention to substantially cut CO2 emissions by 2050, while developing an approach towards carbon neutrality in the land sector that does not compromise our capacity for food production,” he said.
You can explore the effect of rising sea levels on Ireland further with tools at climatechange.org. As the research focused on the US, some of the following maps may understate the risks in these areas.
H/T: Irish Times