February 27th, 2018
Changes in water availability due to climate change will have a catastrophic impact on the world, a UN expert told a Climate Conference in Cork yesterday.
Speaking at University College Cork’s Climate Conference 2018, Dr Debora Chapman, director of the UN Environment Water Capacity Development Centre, said that water is the primary medium through which people will see the effect of climate change.
Reduction in rainfalls as a result of climate change has led to droughts in many areas of the world. In the US, for example, 71 per cent of the state of California has been the victim of “extreme drought”.
According to Dr Chapman, people in many developing countries have it much worse, with some already limited to daily access to the same amount of water we use in flushing our toilets.
“It is estimated that between 24 to 700 million people will be displaced to look for water due to the impact of climate change on water availability,” Dr Chapman warned.
Other speakers at the conference emphasised the importance of collaborative action in tackling the consequences of climate change.
Professor Sarah Culloty, director of UCC’s Environmental Research Institute (ERI), urged researchers to “reach out” to their colleagues in different fields and step out of their “comfort zone” to tackle climate change.
“Different perspectives can bring different solutions, and that’s what we are looking for when we talk about climate change,” Prof Culloty said.
She also emphasised the importance of making academic language “accessible” to engage the general public with environmental issues.
“People should feel that they can have some individual ownership of these challenges and that they can positively make an impact which would lead to significant changes,” Prof Culloty added.
Barrister, UCC law lecturer and advisor to the citizen assembly on climate change Dr Áine Ryall stressed the power of individuals in convincing governments to fight climate change.
Dr Ryall praised the efforts of Cork-based NGO, Friends of the Irish Environment (FiE) in leading to the constitutional recognition of the right to a healthy environment by the High Court last year.
“We should pick up this new constitutional right and run with it to ensure that it has some impact and to force governments to take account of it,” Dr Ryall said.
FOI’s newest legal action against the Irish government involves the National Mitigation Plan. “FOI argues that the National Mitigation Plan is inadequate and unlawful for lack of details and also the alleged breach of constitutional rights and human rights,” Dr Ryall said.
The importance of these two cases, Dr Ryall said, is the publicity that they attract which gets the media interested in these stories.
Dr Ryall called on the members of the press to fight climate change alongside citizens. “Media and events like this are a crucial part of the solution so that people can pick up on things and help to move the agenda forward,” Dr Ryall said.