The devastating floods seen in Cork last week are something Ireland will “have to get used to”, an expert on climate change has said.
Storm Babet saw homes and businesses across the Rebel County swamped with water and the bill for the cleanup is expected to cost the State millions.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, climatologist Professor John Sweeney said all extreme weather events have the “fingerprint, however small” of climate change on them and Storm Babet was no different.
“We know that this particular storm, however, developed in the very warm waters off the coast of Portugal,” he said.
“We’ve been having a marine heatwave most of the summer and autumn, so it was developing in waters which were 1-2°C warmer than usual.
“That means it could hold a lot more water vapours, so it’s arriving on our shores supercharged and it’s that really which, I think, is pointing to the climate change dimension as being instrumental in making the event more extreme - as the residents of Midleton would no doubt testify.”
ℹ️ Cork County Council is continuously evaluating the impact of #StormBabet. Our primary focus remains on ensuring public safety, and continuing clean-up operations in the affected areas.
ℹ️ Full update on our website: https://t.co/nrQimBOPMW
📷 @IrishCoastGuard pic.twitter.com/LA7vf3YysI
— Cork County Council (@Corkcoco) October 19, 2023
Professor Sweeney said there is “no doubt” Ireland’s climate is changing and the floods in Cork will happen again.
“It’s something I think we’ll have to get used to,” he said.
“It’s the kind of event we’re going to see more frequently and perhaps even to a greater severity in the years ahead as the air warms and as the waters around us warm.
“In that sense, it’s something that we’re going to have to pay the price [for].
“We’re simply going to have to think about adaptation and protection of people in exposed and vulnerable locations.”
Currently, the State spends €100 million a year on flood defences but the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council has estimated the cost of extreme weather events could reach €500 million a year.
“We are looking at very large amounts of taxpayers money,” Professor Sweeney said.
“I know that to build a seawall, for example, costs per kilometre roughly the same [as it does] to build a motorway.
“So, we are facing hard choices.”
The Government has committed Ireland to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Main image: Flooding in Cork. Picture by: Cork County Council.