Posted on 14th August 2021

Slane Castle

When I was young it was the Atomic Bomb that was the stuff of nightmares.  The Cuban Missile Crisis with the Russians and the Americans threatening to obliterate civilisation heightened anxiety.  It was all encapsulated for me by the name of the strategy adopted by the U.S. Defence Secretary, Bob McNamara, called Mutually Assured Destruction, ie MAD.  Whilst there are still enough atomic weapons around to obliterate entire populations, we now do have a truly global nightmare – Climate Change.  This is no longer a matter of what kind of a world we are leaving for our grandchildren, it is real and it is now.  Imagine for one moment that climate change interfered with the Gulf Stream upon which we depend for our temperate climate.  Should things go seriously awry, we could end up enjoying the same weather as Newfoundland, the stuff of nightmares indeed.

To deal with this crisis we need profound change and ultimately politicians who are up to the task of providing the leadership that is required for the restructuring of our economy and society to respond to a need to minimise CO2 emissions.  This is going to be painful and difficult but come the next election any candidate running for the Dail should be closely questioned on their party’s approach to this most central of issues.  It is a sobering thought that a report issued on Thursday by the EPA, Met Eireann and the Marine Institute showed that in 2019 at Mace Head in Galway measurements of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide were at the highest ever recorded level.  This followed on from the US Report earlier in the week that showed changes to the climate system are “unprecedented” and this is down to human activity.  Minister for the Environment and Leader of the Greens Eamon Ryan said “ We know what we have to do.  We now need to harness a national and global effort to do it”.  How come I get this feeling that he is good at talking the talk but not yet walking the walk.

November will see the UN Climate Change Conference take place in Glasgow, a city I have visited often during the years and which was at the heart of the industrial revolution and where all the trouble started in terms of humans mucking up our climate.  In fairness to the British, they take climate change seriously although this week their zero carbon strategy received a serious blow when a report showed their hopes to heat millions of homes using hydrogen boilers could increase carbon emissions.  The problem is not burning the hydrogen but the process of producing it.  So back to the drawing board and maybe finding a viable form of production.

Perhaps to lift the general sense of gloom that descends when thinking about such grave matters,  we should instead think that we are at the dawn of a new age, when humanity will harness what surrounds them and provide the energy they need.  Wind, wave and solar and even the geothermal energy which is beneath us .  Good heavens I’m starting to feel better already.  However, to achieve this our government will have to act, so now not only do they have to provide houses for the people but the heat to keep them warm.

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