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Editorial: Climate Change is Upon US – and There Will Be Many More Midletons

The Green Party gathered this weekend in Cork for its annual conference. The county has been at the epicentre of the flood devastation caused by Storm Babet, with the east Cork town of Midleton particularly badly affected. The sight of the main street of a mid-sized town being turned into a river should sound alarm bells about the impact of climate change.

Midleton has a population of around 12,000 people, with plans for this to grow to 21,000 over a decade. The growth will require the development of housing, shopping, amenities and infrastructure. The regeneration in the middle of the town, alongside the Owenacurra River, is included in the plans. Storm Babet has left a trail of destruction in its wake.

The picture in Midleton is replicated in many towns across the country. Thriving market towns grew out, the town centres became clogged by traffic, ring roads are built, shopping centres and supermarkets go to the outskirts, housing developments go beyond the town limits, making the residents dependant on cars for school, work and business. The building on flood plains creates a funnel effect. The rainwater has to go somewhere. There will be many more Midletons.

During Storm Babet, a month’s rain fell in the space of a day in what is known as a rain bomb. The attention-grabbing phenomenon is known more properly as a “wet microburst”, a column of sinking air associated with thunderstorms that have serious potential for doing damage.

While the specific meteorological cause is still the subject of research, there is a view in the scientific community that our changing climate is likely to increase the probability of intense rainfall.

Much as intense dry periods are becoming more common and will intensify going forward, so too will torrential rainfall. Engineering solutions can be developed to counteract the impact of the flash-flooding, but not the cause of the downpour.

The link between proper planning and climate change is beginning to dawn on people. Certainly the need for proper planning to deal with the effects of climate change is well understood at this stage. The building of flood prevention measures have been dogged by objections, holding up projects for years. A symptom of an inadequate planning system, such applications are going to become more prevalent and require a process that allows objections but gives a decision in a quicker fashion.

To look merely at mitigating the damage misses the point. Climate change is upon us and will continue to get worse, with consequences for our daily lives.

Taking firm action is not an easy task either, but a planned response to reducing the pace of climate change is preferable to the emergence of weather-based crises on a continual basis.

Those highlighting climate change are increasingly feeling like the boy with the finger in the dyke, trying to stave off disaster whilst also crying for help. The water is going to keep coming.

Source: Irish Independent