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Climate change a massive threat to our humble spuds

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Eamon Ryan says drought will wreak havoc with our farming

Eamon Ryan says drought will wreak havoc with our farming

Eamon Ryan says drought will wreak havoc with our farming

Climate change threatens Ireland's ability to grow the humble spud, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has warned.

Droughts will mean it will be increasingly difficult to grow potatoes in the south and east of the country, while the north and west suffer from more severe winter deluges of rain.

These are among the "real" impacts that will occur before the longer-term threat to Ireland's major cities from sea-level rise due to the melting of polar ice-caps, if climate change isn't halted, Mr Ryan has said.

The Programme for Government sets out an ambitious 7pc-a-year target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade and the aim of having net zero by 2050.

The inclusion of the goal was one of the key demands of the Green Party before it entered coalition.

Mr Ryan has said one of his priorities in the next six months is to set out a "really ambitious climate action plan".

At a round-table interview with journalists, he was asked to put in real terms what climate change will mean for people in Ireland.

He said the south-east is most at risk from rising sea levels, adding that the threat to the Dublin-Rosslare rail line, which runs along the coast, is a "practical example of it".

Mr Ryan stated that even sections of the line in Dublin Bay are at risk. He said that Dún Laoghaire Harbour and the Dart station at Salthill have been "getting a battering".

He said the protection of the rail line will require "significant intervention", and added that it's "not a small engineering issue and not easy to resolve".

Mr Ryan also pointed to the work of one of Ireland's top climate-change scientists, Prof

John Sweeney, in outlining other tangible impacts at a local level in Ireland.

"The analysis he's done shows, in general, that we're going to see much wetter winters in the north and west of the country and drier summers in the south and east."

Mr Ryan said he always tells farming organisations that "the climate itself is going to change Irish farming".

He said the drought of 2018 was "very severe" and "the grass-based system that we have in the south-east was under huge stress. That would force us to change".

He also warned: "It would force us to change. For example, the growing of potatoes will become increasingly difficult in the south and east unless there is irrigated land."

He said the north and west are "already harsher or difficult environments because of the levels of rainfall - those increased rainfall events in the winter - and particularly the intense rainfall events, that's very real."

Targets

Mr Ryan added: "This is not an academic or long-term problem. This is something we're already facing here now. They're the big adaptations."

He said the climate is "going to require us to change".

The Green Party leader said the long-term effect of climate change is why he is so adamant that the targets in the Paris Agreement must be met.

He said there are "tipping points" like the impact of the Arctic ice melt in terms of accelerating the heating of the planet.

"The risk is that if we go beyond a certain point, it then becomes an irreversible process."


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