Ireland has long been obsessed with the weather. But should it - and we - be more interested in the climate?

Climate and weather are related, but not the same. Our weather describes specific events - heatwaves, droughts, thunderstorms or floods. The climate is the patterns of weather over long periods of time.

In recent weeks, we've seen a series of unusual weather events, from record hot temperatures in Canada and the northwest United States, to deadly floods in Germany and Ireland's heatwave. When extreme weather occurs, people often want to know if climate change is to blame.

Western Germany on 21 July after devastating floods hit the region

It is the job of RTÉ News to report facts. The warming of the climate system is unequivocal. It is a fact that global warming is predominantly due to man-made greenhouse gas emissions. However, linking any individual weather event to climate change has traditionally been more complicated.

Investigating links between climate and extreme weather is known as attribution science. And in recent years, scientists have developed ways to do it with ever more confidence. That climate change is making some extreme weather events worse is also a fact - one we should regularly remind our audience of.

A protracted heatwave fuelled scores of wildfires in Canada's western provinces this month

There's been criticism of RTÉ News for failing to connect recent events to climate change. However, it's not just many journalists who've been taken aback. Many scientists have also been shocked at the dramatic change in the frequency with which extreme weather events occur.

One driver behind these events is the shifting pattern of the jet stream that links the heatwave in North America, wildfires in the Russian Arctic and floods in Germany and Belgium. This weekend, one of the leading climate scientists, Prof Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University told the Financial Times that "the rise in extreme weather events is exceeding the predictions".

For the past 16 months, RTÉ News has been focused on covering a once-in-a-century global pandemic. Like everyone else, we've had to make choices - compromises about not covering other things we would rather not make.

Pre-pandemic, RTÉ's financial challenges meant one correspondent covered both science and environment. Since March 2020, our science correspondent has been exclusively assigned to covering the Covid crisis.

However, as Ireland emerges from the pandemic, we will double down on our coverage of climate issues.

Public service journalism means RTÉ News has a responsibility to lead the conversation about the climate crisis, and the impact it is having. From September, every journalist in RTÉ News will take part in a workshop looking at climate science, and the reporting of it.

And we will create a team, working across RTÉ News & Current Affairs, dedicated to reporting the climate crisis, beginning with extensive coverage of COP26, the United Nations Climate Change conference in Glasgow in November.

Often in the online world, people have an absolute certainty in their own beliefs and want us to adopt theirs. It's right that we are held to account. RTÉ News reports facts. Our journalists do so with integrity and honesty -- as well as human fallibility.