Mooney Goes Wild, Sunday January 7th 2018

Ireland and Climate Change: Are we up for it? Professor John Sweeney - Maynooth University

When the countries of the world assembled for the now famous Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to adopt the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, they undertook to take the necessary steps to prevent ‘dangerous’ climate change. Defining what was dangerous proved a difficult task, however, and largely as a result of the European Union’s prodding, a value of 2oC warming above pre-industrial times was generally adopted as the criterion. Gradually the rest of the world fell into line with this, except the Small Island Developing States of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. For them this was something that would have condemned their island homes to submergence beneath the rising sea. So when the Paris Agreement emerged in 2015, it had a nuanced objective: "to hold increases in global temperatures to well below 2 °C and pursue efforts to limit increase to 1.5 °C." To flesh out what the 1.5oC target would actually mean, the Conference asked the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to produce a Special Report, which they did in October of last year.

The report confirmed that significantly greater climate problems would be experienced at a warming of 1.5oc compared to the present day, even though we have already warmed by 1oC over pre-industrial levels. These would include increases in extremes of heat and heavy rainfall events in several regions, accompanied by more frequent and more intense droughts. But most worrying was the realisation that the remaining carbon budget to avoid this warming would only last for a decade or two at the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions. After this budget was exhausted the carbon would be in the atmosphere for a century or more. Globally, emissions needed to fall by 45% on 2010 levels by 2030. It was this realisation that galvanised many groups and energised many individuals around the world, culminating in the mass protests we see around us. This was true, even in an Ireland whose compliance with its international obligations are failing miserably and its laggard status approaching the level of a national shaming. As a developed country with historical responsibility, we should be bearing more of the burden of tackling this problem than most other countries. Instead our per capita emissions are 50% higher than the EU average and place us as the second worst contributor to climate change on a per capita basis within the EU. The recently released 2018 figures confirm we are now 5M tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the limit we agreed solemnly with our EU partners over a decade ago.

At the same time as we declared a climate emergency in Ireland this year we also declared a biodiversity emergency. This was in recognition that Ireland was also experiencing serious threats to its species and habitats, partly due to climate and also a number of other drivers, such as agricultural intensification. Another UN report in spring 2019 confirmed that human actions are now threatening more species with global extinction than ever before. The current rate of species extinction is 10-100 times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years. Around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades.

In Ireland, our peatland, coastal marsh and mountain habitats are particularly at risk. 29 different bird species and 120  species of flowering plants are in serious decline. Some bird species such as the Corn Bunting and Corncock have become extinct. Others such as the Curlew have been decimated and many species such as the pearl mussel, bumblebee, barn owl and marsh fritillary butterfly face serious threats. At the same time invasive species are moving into newly favourable ecological niches providing additional competition and stress to native species.

Ireland has warmed by 0.5oC over the past 30 years and is likely to warm by a similar amount over the next 2-3 decades. This  will have impacts on our growing season, making crops like maize much more feasible to grow. However, projected changes in rainfall are likely to be the main climate change problem Ireland will face. Already we are seeing an increase in intense rainfall events. Increased winter flood problems will result and the government will need to find €1B of taxpayers’ money to protect against future events. Winter storms are also likely to become more problematical. Winter 2013/14 was the stormiest winter in Ireland for at least 143 years. Winter 2015/16 was the wettest winter on record over half of Ireland. Former hurricanes such as Ophelia and Lorenzo pose additional late autumn threats which are likely to increase as the Atlantic warms and summer droughts will bring their own difficulties for agriculture and municipal water supplies. All in all, it is changing weather extremes which will bring the message of climate change home to Irish people and instil in them the urgency of playing a constructive role in international negotiations.

Conscious that it their legacy that is under threat, young people have been in the vanguard of protest. The ‘Fridays for Future’ schools protest has taken up the baton of Greta Thunberg who has become the icon that communicates the reality of climate change more effectively than a hundred graphs and tables. Armed with the factual knowledge of the Green Schools, it is to these inspirational leaders that the rest of society must now turn. The time for tinkering around the edges with excuses about efficiency or identifying ‘low hanging fruit’ on the basis of economic cost benefit curves is now over. The problem is now an ethical one of intergenerational equity, one where scientists can no longer be labelled ‘alarmists’ but rather ‘realists’. In an emergency the unthinkable has to be considered and Ireland is now at a crossroads where the next decade will determine what legacy we leave to the next generation. It’s an awesome responsibility. Are we up for it or not?

On Mooney Goes Wild tonight...

On Mooney Goes Wild tonight...

A very Happy New Year to all our listeners!  We visit the Albert Bridge in Belfast and witness the magnificence of nature’s ballet that is the starling murmuration.  Eanna ni Lamhna hears how modern cities can provide nature-based solutions to 21st century problems.  And John O’Halloran visits Fota Island Nature Reserve in Co Cork to meet some adorable Red Panda Cubs – and much more besides!

Mesmerising Starling Murmurations

One of nature’s most wonderful phenomenons is the mesmerising aerial ballet that is the starling murmuration.  Thousands and thousands of birds flock together and literally dance across the sky in a sublime, twisting and swirling collective - which moves like one single, shape-shifting cloud.  In fact it’s one of the world’s great mysteries – as to why they don’t bump into each other and knock each other out of the sky.

Compilation of starling murmuration photos by Edward Delaney

Compilation of starling murmuration photos by listener Edward Delaney

The best time to see these wonderful exhibitions is around dusk during the autumn and winter months.  So whilst in Belfast recently, Derek thought he’d drop over to one of his favourite spots in the city, the Albert Bridge, where he’d previously witnessed murmurations of tens of thousands of starlings.  There he met up with Claire Barnett, Senior Conservation Officer with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in Northern Ireland...

Derek also took a trip down to Lough Ennell, in County Westmeath, where he joined Eugene Dunbar of BirdWatch Ireland's Westmeath branch, to admire the starling murmurations there...

And if your appetite for spectacular murmurations has been whetted, then you'll enjoy this video from one of our listeners, Liz, who contacted us on Facebook to say:

Dear Derek, I thought you might like to see a video I made of a starling murmuration.  I am a regular visitor to the starlings of Lough Carra in County Mayo because I'm only 10 minutes drive from there.  This particular murmuration was spectacular.  It was a good 20 minutes in total - I took a few snaps, then recorded the last eleven minutes.  I'd estimate there were about 40,000 starlings, which is a big increase from last year.  Please feel free to share it!  Best wishes, Liz

And if you have a photo, video or observation that you would like us to share with our audience, then you can contact us on Facebook - www.facebook.com/rtenature, on Twitter - www.twitter.com/NatureRTE, or send us an e-mail - mooney@rte.ie!

Cork's Red Pandas

Cork is a place with an abundance of natural beauty and attractions, which draw tourists from all over the world, as well as visitors from our own national and local population.  Fáilte Ireland's latest Visitor Attitudes Survey was released recently.  It ranked Fota Wildlife Park at number 9 in the top 10 visitor attractions in the country – beaten only by the likes of the Guinness Storehouse, the Cliffs of Moher and the Book of Kells.

Left: Brazilian Tapir calf; middle: Giraffe calf; right: Colombian Black Spider Monkey

Fota Wildlife Park is home to a wide variety of animals such as Cheetahs, Lions and Gibbons and many more besides – each with carefully tailored environments for their species, replicating their natural habitats in the wild.  The care and attention given to this is reaping dividends – and the birth of twin Red Panda cubs in Fota this June highlighted once again the success that zoos and wildlife parks are having in breeding endangered species.

Fota's Red Pandas

The Red Panda twins have been named Koda and Lionel after the band Kodaline who filmed their latest music video, for the song Ready To Change, in the park.

Professor John O’Halloran, of UCC, went along to talk to Sean McKeown, the Director of Fota Wildlife Park...

Left: Emu; middle: John O'Halloran (l) with Sean McKeown (r); right: Giraffe

Connecting Nature

Urban parks and green roofs tend to be associated with trendy European cities such as Stockholm, Barcelona and Paris.  But the good news is that a recently launched multi-million euro, pan-European project, co-ordinated by a research team in Trinity College Dublin, hopes to expand the idea elsewhere - by exploring  how 21st century cities can benefit and support nature-based solutions.

The project, which is funded by the European Union and the cities involved, is headed by Dr. Marcus Collier, Assistant Professor of Botany at the School of Natural Sciences in Trinity College.  Whilst nature-based solutions are pretty thin on the ground here in Dublin, there is one in Pelletstown, next to the Phoenix Park, which is where Eanna ni Lamhna met up with Dr. Collier...

Left: Eanna ni Lamhna; right: Marcus Collier

To find out more about the SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage System) project, click here, for more information about Trinity's involvement, click here, and to learn more about Connecting Nature, visit www.connectingnature.eu.

The Second Chance Archive

Have another chance to hear some of our Mooney Goes Wild programmes uncovered from the RTÉ Radio 1 archive. Click the links below for more information. 

The Dance of the Cuckoos - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

The Blue Whale - Mooney Goes Wild Special

Feathers - Mooney Goes Wild Special

Bergen Whale - Mooney Goes Wild Special

Sparrows  - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

Wildlife Film Makers - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

The Common Swift - Mooney Goes Wild Special 

E-mail: mooney@rte.ie        Facebook: facebook.com/rtenature          Twitter: @NatureRTE

 

Hedgerows

Statement from BirdWatch Ireland, Thurs Feb 28th 2019:

BirdWatch Ireland wishes to remind the public, local authorities and contractors that hedge-cutting is NOT permitted between 1st March and 31st August inclusive, except in the case of any of the derogations permitted under the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended. The Heritage Act 2018 gives the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the power to make certain changes to these dates, but it is important to note that, as yet, the Minister has not done so. As a result, the usual dates when hedge-cutting is prohibited currently remain unchanged.

It is an offence to 'cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy hedgerows on uncultivated land during the nesting season from 1 March to 31 August, subject to certain exceptions'. For more information, click here.  To read the Heritage Bill 2016, as passed by Dáil Éireann on July 5th 2018, click here.  To read the Heritage Act 2018, click here.

To contact your local wildlife ranger, click here for contact details. To read the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, click here.

Caring For Wild Animals

Please note that many species of mammals, birds, invertebrates etc... are protected under law and that, even with the best of intentions, only someone holding a relevant licence from the National Parks & Wildlife Service should attempt the care of these animals.  For full details, please click here to read the NPWS Checklist of protected & rare species in Ireland.  If you are concerned about a wild animal, please contact your local wildlife ranger - click here for details.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Please DO NOT send any live, dead or skeletal remains of any creature whatsoever to Mooney Goes Wild.  If you find an injured animal or bird, please contact the National Parks & Wildlife Service on 1890 20 20 21, or BirdWatch Ireland, on 01 281-9878, or visit www.irishwildlifematters.ie

Music Played on the Show

Oceanus: Ocean Journey

Oceanus: Ocean Journey

No Details

1:56

Ready To Change

Ready To Change

Kodaline

3:53

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E-mail: mooney@rte.ie

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Presenter: Derek Mooney

Series Producer: Ana Leddy

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