This week we learned that Cork could be submerged under water if flood defences are not adequately prepared in time for the real onset of climate change. According to a new report by the Irish Academy of Engineers, Ireland's major cities, all built on the coast and also on river estuaries, could be submerged within the next century as a result of climate change.
The report – 'Ireland at Risk' – also claims that the traditional one-in-a-century flood could happen every five years if measures are not taken to combat climate change and to prepare flood defences. And many areas of Cork are at serious risk.
Somebody tell that to the people in Passage West and Glenbrook who saw wholesale destruction of their property last week. Serious flooding occurred in Glenbrook, Monkstown, Rochestown, Carrigaline, Shanbally and Minane Bridge, and residents in Glenbrook in particular were devastated at the destruction of homes and vehicles. However, the crucial part of this tale of woe is that local people had been seeking flood defence works for years. Not huge ones; merely the unblocking of gullies. And why didn't they happen? Not urgent, according to Cork County Council.
In fairness to Cork County Council, they're not operating in a vacuum. Irish attitudes to preparation are at best optimistic and at worst apocalyptic. Make hay while the sun shines… it might never happen… sure we'll manage.
Nothing is urgent until the worst happens. That's how disaster strikes. And climate change, as this report shows, is coming at us at full speed. I'm not an expert on the environment. But I believe in what I can see, and even I can see that the weather is changing.
At the moment, the country is like one of those cartoon characters whose eyes are following the prize, while the anvil plummets towards them at speed. We are focussing on the finer points of bankers' salaries and tax rates and even on Jedward, and the Breffmeister. Some of these things are merely much-needed entertainment, while others may be directly relevant to our daily lives and wellbeing.
But issues like last week's flooding in Passage West and Glenbrook show us that we cannot afford to put climate change on the back burner. Waiting until we've dealt with the economic crisis is simply not good enough; the economic crisis could continue for the next twenty years.
While real long-term change needs to happen from the bottom up, the Government must lead on this, and introduce a flood defence programme immediately. We cannot stop climate change. But, while it might take a sea-change in mentality, we can do our best to prepare for and cope with it.
- For pics see www.corkindependent.com or www.provision.ie
*UPDATE: Cork is practically underwater today, one day after writing... wasn't aware I was psychic!