AN Economic BooM that began in the 1990s and continued through 2001 transformed Ireland from one of the poorest countries in Europe to one of the wealthiest, but the boom came with an environmental cost. No part of Ireland is more than 70 mi. (113 km.) from the Atlantic Ocean, and this proximity to the ocean renders the country particularly vulnerable to coastline erosion. Greenhouse gas emissions from land and air transportation increased 140 percent 1990-2004, making Ireland the second worst offender (next to Luxembourg) in spewing pollutants among European Economic Area nations. Deforestation has added to Ireland's environmental offenses.
A study compiled by climatologists for the Environmental Protection Agency draws a direct correlation between Ireland's shrinking shoreline and greenhouse gas emissions. The researchers reported that Ireland's average temperature has been rising at the rate of 0.75 degrees F (0.42 degrees C) each decade since 1980, the fastest rate of change in more than a century. At the same time, Ireland has experienced its 10 hottest years on record, rainfall has increased in frequency and intensity along the Atlantic coastline, and the study predicts worsening conditions.
Ireland, as a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, is bound to limit its emissions increase to 13 percent by 2010. The European Union (EU), in 2006, questioned Ireland's ability to meet the target, predicting that the country will likely increase its emissions by 29 percent. The Irish government has defended its policies, insisting that increases in the nation's use of renewable energy for electricity production and more stringent measures for its building industry will make results better than EU predictions. However, as the opposition party is quick to note, road building increases emissions, as does Ireland's low level of forest cover. Despite 20 years of encouraging afforestation, Ireland's rates are 30 percent below target.
Ireland can claim some successes. Emission rates were reduced in energy supply, industry, agriculture, and waste management during the same period when transportation emissions increased dramatically. In April 2007, the Ministry for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government announced the National Climate Change Strategy for 2007-12. The plan included such measures as a goal of 15 percent of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2010, and 33 percent by 2020, with biomass to contribute up to 30 percent of energy input at peat stations by 2015; new support for afforestation, changes in tax regulations to discourage the use of fuel-inefficient cars; and grants for renewable energy heating sources for homes. A more detailed Transport Action Plan was promised for late 2007. The government believes these srate-gies will allow Ireland to meet 80 percent of its Kyoto target, with the remaining 20 percent coming from Ireland's use of the Flexible Mechanisms that allow Kyoto Protocol Parties to support the development of clean technology in the developing world in return for emissions credits.
sEE ALso: Afforestation; European Union; Luxembourg.
BIBLIoGRAPHY. Jasmina Behan, Kieran McQuinn, and M.J. Roche, "Rural Land Use: Traditional Agriculture or Forestry?" Land Economics (v.82/1, 2006); Department of the Environment, Heritage, and Local Government, Ireland, www.environ.ie/en (cited October 2007); Roisin Finlay, "Eco Warrior: Transport Emissions Put Ireland Off Kyoto Course," Post (March 11, 2007).
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Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.