The Late Late no-show on climate emergency

WHISPER IT: there’s something missing from our national conversation. Over the 24 years since Gay Byrne stepped down from RTÉ’s flagship TV programme, The Late Late Show in 1999, climate change as a topic has, by my count, featured precisely twice.

Incredibly, in both cases, the floor was given to deniers to spread disinformation. Sadly, that is symptomatic of how the biggest unfolding story of the 21st century has been handled by our national broadcaster.

The first incident of note occurred in January 2009, when presenter Pat Kenny platformed botanist and former TV personality David Bellamy’s contrarian views on climate change. A red flag for the show should have been that Bellamy had no expertise whatever in climate science.

The real cause of whatever warming was occurring was sun spots, Bellamy stated incorrectly, adding that doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be nigh-on-impossible. Even if we succeeded, “that would put the temperature up by at most two degrees centigrade”, he added. This too is manifestly false, but Bellamy’s bluster went entirely unchallenged.

Whatever about the host, it’s not as if Bellamy was unaware that he was spreading misinformation. Some years earlier, when still a working scientist, he had spoken publicly and at length on the “dramatic and devastating climate change” that would arise from CO2 emissions, adding that those trying to block action were “criminals”. That’s quite a spectacular U-turn.

Later in 2009, there was a generational shift as Ryan Tubridy took over the Late Late chair aged just 36. Hopes that this might bring a fresh perspective to climate coverage were dashed when, in January 2011, Tubridy hosted Viscount Christopher Monckton, UKIP deputy leader, and long-standing climate denier.

Monckton duly used this huge public platform to spread disinformation and long-debunked bogus science, with the host once again unable to even fact-check him. The only push-back was a solitary voice from the audience, a Green Party member trying vainly try to get a word in sideways to stem the tide.

In the 12 years and over 350 episodes since then, the global climate crisis has dramatically worsened, yet to the best of my knowledge, not once did the Late Late team consider this vast subject worth examining in depth.

It wasn’t as if nobody was asking. Numerous environmental NGOs would have approached the show over the last decade trying to interest them in covering the climate crisis. It’s not just about science. After all, it touches every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat to how we travel, shop, design our cities, heat our homes, and perhaps most critically, it challenges us to reimagine the kind of world we are bequeathing to our children.

In 2015, I interviewed UK climate scientist Prof Kevin Anderson on his visit to Dublin and I also approached a senior producer on the show to ask if they might consider him as a guest.

I also sent them some video clips of Anderson in action — he’s a forceful, serious science communicator. The reply: sorry, a bit dull, not really what we’re looking for on the show. (Here’s one from 2015, where he was interviewed by Duncan Stewart at COP15 in Paris for EcoEye, and didn’t pull his punches on the Irish media platforming of ‘skeptics’).

Fair enough, you might say, the Late Late is really about light entertainment, not current affairs. Yet oddly, anti-science cranks and contrarians, perhaps by dint of being more ‘colourful’, are to be welcomed on as guests. Controversy sells, as the saying goes.

Now, 61 years after the famous “To whom it concerns” catchphrase was first aired, the show is to get just its fourth permanent host. As the mass street climate protests in Dublin and across Ireland in 2019 showed so clearly, there is a new generation desperate to see real, substantive action on the climate emergency. For its part, RTÉ is equally desperate to make a connection with a younger generation that is turning its back on traditional TV.

In his heyday, Gay Byrne’s genius as a broadcaster was his uncanny knack of sensing the zeitgeist of the age and his ability to push the boundaries of the national conversation into some very uncomfortable terrain.

A new science-literate host prepared to truly connect with the legitimate existential concerns of Generation Z may yet breathe life back into the Late Late’s venerable but jaded formula.

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Beware the radical climate inactivists

It has long puzzled me that those promoting ecocidal policies that in the short term impoverish and kill millions and that in the longer term may well kill us all have somehow managed to maintain the illusion that they are ‘centrist’, ‘reasonable’ people, unlike the riff raff of climate crusties out blocking traffic and making unreasonable demands that we stop destroying the basis of life on Earth. The media has also been a great enabler of this dangerous fiction, as I explored in the Business Post in late April.

IF YOU CAN keep your head about the climate emergency when all the experts around you are losing theirs, then frankly, you really haven’t been paying attention.

Last year, thousands of long-standing temperature records fell around the world. The summer of 2022 saw China’s most intense heatwave, an event scientists described as the most extreme in recorded history, while Europe experienced its worst drought in at least 500 years.

The same pattern was repeated across the United States, and much of Africa and Asia, and these dangerous conditions have persisted right into 2023. Scorching April heatwaves in Asia have this year shattered records from Thailand to India and Japan, with multiple deaths and hospitalisations.

Spain is already in the grip of a heatwave. Exceptional drought conditions are affecting 60 per cent of the country, with severe implications for food production and exports. The Italian government has been forced to introduce a new drought decree to tackle its deepening water crisis, with little sign of recovery after the “state of calamity” declared as a result of the 2022 drought, the worst in 70 years.

Meanwhile, marine scientists are reporting a sudden spike in global sea temperatures. Off the east coast of the US, sea surface temperatures in March were 13.8C higher than average, an increase that almost beggars belief. This portends ever more ferocious weather conditions as energy builds up across the entire climate system.

There is nothing “natural” about these disasters. Such rolling extreme weather events are a direct result of the uncontrolled release of billions of tonnes of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere every year. Worse, much worse, is in the pipeline.

A major scientific study published in 2020 projected that over the coming 50 years, areas of the world where between one and three billion people live today will become too hot for human habitation or agriculture, with entire ecosystems breaking down as a result of intolerable heat.

This is an existential crisis for human civilisation on a par with the very darkest moments in our history. Quite simply, we as a species have never faced a moment of such acute collective jeopardy.

Unsurprisingly, some people who have grasped the situation have begun to take to the streets to engage in direct action to draw attention to a crisis that governments, major corporations and most of the media seem determined to pretend isn’t really happening.

Every action begets a reaction. On the right, there are now concerted attempts to tar peaceful climate protesters as dangerous radicals wielding a sinister anti-democratic agenda.

In the Business Post last weekend, former politician Lucinda Creighton deployed the term “extreme/extremist” 14 times in a single article in an unsubtle attempt to portray climate protesters as irrational terrorists. The movement has, in fact, been highly disciplined in eschewing violent protest.

Creighton insinuated that climate protesters were getting special treatment before the law. The opposite is usually the case, with peaceful protest now being criminalised. For instance, a London judge last month jailed environmentalists for defying his bizarre direction that they not tell a jury that the reason they joined a roadblock was to draw attention to the climate crisis.

While caricatured on the right as anarchists and crusty anti-establishment layabouts, today’s climate protesters are as likely to be medical doctors or scientists. For instance, climatologist Dr Peter Kalmus of Nasa was arrested last year for chaining himself to the doors of a bank that lends to fossil fuel interests.

“We scientists have been trying to warn you guys for decades that we’re heading towards a fucking catastrophe, and we’ve been ignored,” Kalmus said. “We’re not joking. We’re not lying. We’re not exaggerating.”

A survey of senior climate experts found that four in five believed they would witness the “catastrophic impacts” of climate change in their own lifetimes, and two thirds of respondents report feelings of grief, anxiety and related distress. Do these really sound like radical anarchist bums to you?

As António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, observed: “Climate activists are depicted as dangerous radicals, yet the truly dangerous radicals are the countries and firms continuing to burn fossil fuels.”

These radical ‘inactivists’ include many from the political right, whose phobia about taxes and regulations tragically blinds them to the rapidly unfolding climate emergency. It’s almost quaint to recall that not that long ago, people who identified as politically conservative used to pride themselves on being guided by science and evidence.

While environmental defenders are today far more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violent actions, it’s impossible to say what may happen in the future, as ecological breakdown frays the very fabric of our civilisation.

A horrifying mass fatality heatwave event in India is explored vividly in the climate-fiction novel The Ministry of the Future, set in the mid-2020s. This disaster leads to over 20 million deaths and is the trigger for wrenching changes to societies around the world.

A shadowy revenge terror group arises from the catastrophe and sabotages the globalised economic system it blames for the climate-fuelled disaster. From the ensuing chaos a leaner, greener and intensely frugal new world order arises.

Such an imagined egalitarian eco-socialist future might be the worst nightmare for the ultra-rich and their many acolytes. But for the rest of us, it’s an infinitely better prospect than crawling from the wreckage of our collapsed civilisation into a parched, dying biosphere.

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Between the AMOC and the deep blue sea

The Environmental Protection Agency hosted a public meeting as part of their ongoing series on climate change in the Round Room at Dublin’s Mansion House in late April, chaired by Ella McSweeney. I met the guest speaker, Prof Stefan Rahmstorf for an interview an hour or so before his presentation and filed the below piece for the Examiner. There are so many parts of our global climate system in dire straits, it can be hard to keep track sometimes, but there’s no doubt that should the AMOC shut down, in the words of another well known scientist, “all hell would break loose in the North Atlantic”.

WE ARE FAST approaching one or more tippings point that will drastically reshape the climate of the Northern hemisphere, but exactly where these points lies is “the billion dollar question”, according to leading oceanographer, Prof Stefan Rahmstorf.

With global warming already having pushed up the Earth’s average surface temperature by over 1.1C, Prof Rahmstorf of Potsdam University, Germany, warned that multiple climate tipping points could be crossed once temperatures have risen by 1.5-2C. This will likely lead to a “domino effect” with catastrophic consequences.

The critical systems most vulnerable to collapse in the relatively near term include the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the loss of which would add three metres to global sea levels, as well as the Amazon rainforest, the world’s coral reefs, and the Greenland ice sheet.

The massive system of ocean currents known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current, or AMOC, is the reason why Ireland, Britain, and most of northwestern Europe enjoy a relatively mild climate and are ice-free all year round.

This enormous submarine system of currents up to 100 times greater than the flow of all the world’s rivers combined, transfers around one petawatt of heat energy from the tropics into the northern hemisphere. This is equivalent to the total energy produced by one million nuclear power stations.

Gulf Stream

Research studies published by Prof Rahmstorf and colleagues, including Dr Levke Caesar of Maynooth University, have established that the AMOC, sometimes referred to as the Gulf Stream, has weakened by around 15% since the 1950s and is now at its weakest in at least 1,000 years. This is already having impacts on weather systems, including fuelling an increase in European heatwaves.

“New studies on the stability of the AMOC are really quite worrying”, he added. “I’m now a lot more concerned than I was 10 or 20 years ago”, he told the Irish Examiner.

In the southern hemisphere, new research has revealed that the deep ocean current around Antarctica which is part of the same global system and which has been stable for thousands of years is now expected to collapse in the coming decades as a result of carbon emissions, with unfathomable implications for the global climate system.

While a complete shutdown of the AMOC, which is part of a global overturning system of deep ocean currents, would likely take decades to play out, its implications are profound. Ireland and our neighbours in northwestern Europe would experience a sharp drop in temperatures as well as rainfall, and an increase in powerful storms, although the temperature drop would be partly offset by the overall global warming effect.

Such rapid changes in climatic conditions have no precedent in at least 10,000 years and would be devastating for agriculture and food production

“We’ve had decades of very clear warnings from the scientific community on climate change, yet the world is really only starting to wake up to the danger now”, Prof Rahmstorf added. “What’s important to bear in mind is that once it shuts down, the AMOC is, in human timescales, gone forever”.

His message to politicians and policymakers was blunt: “The key is they simply have to start putting climate at the top of their agendas; they cannot allow it to be pushed off the agenda by other short-term priorities. This is an extremely urgent situation”.

Cutting emissions

Since there is no possible way of mitigating the devastating consequences of a full-scale collapse in our weather systems, Prof Rahmstorf was adamant that the only way to avoid the worst outcomes is to take the science seriously and cut emissions from every sector in half by 2030.

“That means we really only have seven years to turn this around. We have to stop making excuses and do whatever is necessary, no matter how difficult, to preserve the climate system we all depend on”, he added. “We need really fast and decisive action”.

Apart from his extensive published research, Prof Rahmstorf is also a committed science communicator. “I have a duty, if you see a danger, you have to let people know. If a house is on fire, you have to call the fire brigade. For me, this is a moral duty. Also, my research is funded by the taxpayer; they pay my wages and they are entitled to be told of our findings.”

Prof Rahmstorf called for an all-of-society response to the unfolding climate emergency. “As a scientist, I have learned that simply informing the public of the facts is not enough to shake people out of their inertia. We need everyone on board — artists, media, communicators. This is too big a task just to be left to the climate scientists”.

At the moment, politicians are fearful of being voted out if they propose climate action that is seen as unpopular, such as banning oil or gas boilers. As the climate emergency begins to really bite, “what they should be afraid of is that they’re going to be voted out if they don’t make climate their top priority”, Prof Rahmstorf added.

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A defining moment for humanity

A number of people active in the area of climate science and activism were asked by the Irish Times in April to contribute a fairly short vignette on where we saw the current situation. My contribution, titled ‘Few options available to avert catastrophe’ is below:

IT IS ALMOST impossible to overstate the urgency and gravity of the climate emergency. Quite simply, this is the defining moment for humanity. The choices this generation make will, one way or another, shape the kind of world our descendants inherit.

While the science of climate change has long been clear, rather than this translating into concerted action we have instead witnessed decades of dithering, denial and political buck-passing. All easy options for a “soft landing” in terms of slowly cutting emissions have now been squandered.

Today, the few options still available to avert complete catastrophe are as unpalatable as they are unpopular. This was made clear with the recent publication of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) synthesis report. Humanity’s pathway to keeping global temperatures below the 1.5 degree danger line has all but disappeared.

We are now facing into an era of unprecedented turmoil, as extreme weather events intensify, stressing the global food system and forcing hundreds of millions to abandon their homelands due to unbearably high temperatures and lethal droughts.

But, like with the persistent ringing of an alarm bell on a neighbour’s house, the public and much of the media seem to have become inured to the warnings and have managed to tune out the sirens and dismiss them as background noise.

It’s a scary time to be alive, yet also one of unique opportunities. No future generation is ever likely to have the chances open to us to still make a difference. Now is the time to prove ourselves to be good ancestors.

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There’s no climate show like a Joe Show

Whatever it may or may not have achieved politically, US president Joe Biden clearly hugely enjoyed his trip to Ireland in April. Though not a political groupie, I still found myself on the road to Westport to attend the last public engagement of his trip – a hugely enjoyable, even emotional occasion for some, including I suspect, Biden himself. Having overdosed, like so many others on the Hopium being peddled by the Obama presidency, the current incumbent is a lot less flash and feels like the real deal, and as I argued in an opinion piece for, is also probably the best thing to happen to global climate action this century so far – though it has to be said that’s against a pretty low bar.

POLITICIANS, IT HAS been said, campaign in poetry but govern in prose. The soaring rhetoric of the hustings rarely survives the meat grinder of deal-making and realpolitik.

When US presidential candidate Joe Biden in 2020 promised “no more drilling on federal lands, period. Period, period, period” he unconsciously echoed a similar pledge made 32 years earlier by George H. Bush, when he said: “read my lips: no new taxes”.

That pledge was to come back to haunt Bush as, sure enough, taxes went up just two years later and this is widely seen as one of the reasons he failed to get re-elected.

Whether Biden’s apparent u-turn in recently authorising an $8 billion plan – known as the Willow project – to drill for 600 million barrels of oil on pristine federal lands deep inside the Arctic Circle comes back to hurt his re-election chances at the end of next year remains to be seen, but it has caused deep dismay in progressive and environmental circles as the latest political capitulation to Big Oil.

It appears that the Biden administration took the political decision not to fight oil giant ConocoPhillips, the company promoting the Willow project as a refusal would almost certainly be overturned in the (Republican-dominated) courts and could likely cost the US government up to $5 billion in compensation claims for lost revenues.

As an attempt to salvage something from the situation, the US government has forced the Willow project to scale back from five to three drilling sites, and ConocoPhillips has agreed to give up leases it held on around 68,000 acres.

Climate tug of war

The Biden administration is also issuing new rules to block future oil and gas leases on more than half of the 23 million acres with the area in Alaska known as the National Petroleum Reserve, as well as 2.8 million acres of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean.

While this sounds encouraging, bear in mind that a future Republican administration could simply overturn these protections, as Donald Trump did to a raft of environmental and climate measures put in place by Barack Obama.

Though it’s cold comfort, Biden was clearly deeply unhappy at having to sign off on the Willow project. During his recent address to the Oireachtas, he described climate change as “the single existential threat to the world”, adding that “we don’t have a lot of time, and that’s a fact”.

Biden has seen the evidence with his own eyes. “I’ve flown over more territory in the United States since I’ve been President, in a helicopter, that has been burned to the ground equal to the entire state of Maryland”.

Our own record

Political talk is of course cheap. For instance, does anyone for a moment seriously imagine our own Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has even begun to grapple with the climate emergency as the key existential issue of his generation?

Biden, I believe, is different, and he proved it last year when he sunk huge political capital into delivering a $369 billion climate investment package, which he modestly described as “the most significant legislation in history” as part of his Inflation Reduction Act.

Expert assessments calculate this could lead to around a 40% reduction in US emissions by 2030, as it engages the levers of large-scale investment to nudge the entire economy on a lower-emissions pathway.

Yes, he lost the Willow battle, but in the overall climate war, Biden is using his decades of experience as a deal-maker and his reputation as a moderate to steer genuinely transformative change at a rate and pace than completely eluded his former boss Barack Obama.

Is it really enough, given the hellish threats posed by climate breakdown? Almost certainly not, but for progressives contemplating staying at home in the 2024 presidential election in protest at the Willow decision, they may need a reality check and to recall the ecocidal Trump regime and how it shredded decades of hard-won environmental regulations as well as attempting to sabotage global climate negotiations.

If either Trump or the equally worrying Ron DeSantis were to enter the White House in January 2025, the Willow debacle would be the very least of our worries. With potential global ecological collapse almost within touching distance, just one more term with a climate denier in charge of the world’s most powerful country should suffice to push us over the edge.

While identifying as a progressive, I’ve never considered myself a US political fan-boy. When Bill Clinton and Barack Obama came to Dublin, I watched it on TV but stayed away, despite living locally. Yet last weekend I joined thousands of others on the long road to Ballina to witness Joe Biden’s final Irish address.

Why the change of heart? Partly, it was the sheer relief that Biden had – at least for now – saved US democracy from being dragged headlong into authoritarianism and fascism in 2020 by MAGA extremists. But mostly it was in recognition of the fact that Biden, Willow notwithstanding, has made real, sustained efforts to show leadership in averting climate catastrophe.

Whatever your politics, your personal or religious views or whatever issues are most precious to you, all of these will be wiped away if we fail to prevent global ecological and climate collapse. In short, if we get this wrong, nothing else will matter, ever again and the future itself will become little more than a rapidly fading memory.

I’m firmly on the side of whoever is fighting to make sure this doesn’t come to pass. Who can say if we’ll succeed? All I know for sure is we cannot afford to fail.

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Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone

They say that, given half a chance, most people would instinctively love and cherish nature. If that’s the case, then something must have gone seriously awry in Ireland in recent decades, given our collective neglect of our natural heritage, along with our bizarre tolerance towards those going out of their way to actually wreck our landscapes and torch what’s left of our biodiversity, as I discussed in the Irish Examiner in April.

MANY PEOPLE were genuinely shocked this week to hear a legal team representing Ireland argue that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) does not in fact guarantee the basic human right of access to a clean, healthy, sustainable environment.

You might well wonder who could possibly argue against such fundamental, inalienable human rights. The answer is the Irish State, acting under advice from the Attorney General’s office, which was one of only two countries to present a verbal argument rejecting these rights.

This astonishing intervention occurred during the so-called “Swiss grannies” case, where a group of women in their 70s have taken a case to the ECHR arguing that Switzerland’s failure to take adequate action on the climate emergency violates their human rights.

Just a few days earlier, Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, chair of the Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity Loss confirmed that the Irish State was the number one offender when it came to breaking or failing to enforce laws protecting nature in Ireland.

Consider that as recently as 2019, total funding available to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to manage and protect Ireland’s national parks and nature reserves was less than €14m. Divided over 26 counties, this amounted to a pittance, averaging at barely €500,000 per county.

In 2008, the NPWS had a budget of nearly €50m, but under cover of austerity measures, this was cut by over two-thirds, while during the same period, funding for Bord Bia increased sharply, to assist in the marketing of Irish food overseas.

Funding for nature and wildlife protection has only recently been restored to 2008 levels at the insistence of the Green Party, but there is little doubt the service was starved of funding for over a decade to ensure it was incapable of effectively carrying out its job of protecting our natural heritage.

Lest you think this arose simply because the State had to make difficult decisions about spending, bear in mind that the €84m of taxpayers’ money poured into subsidising greyhound and horse racing in 2019 was six times larger than total spending that year on the NPWS.

Biodiversity in dire condition

It is no coincidence that Ireland’s biodiversity is now in dire condition, with 63% of our bird species in decline and less than 2% of our marine waters having any kind of protection.

The situation for our key wildlife habitats as identified in the EU’s habitats directive is equally depressing, with less than one in six in “favourable” condition. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than half of Ireland’s rivers, lakes and estuaries are now in poor condition.

The EPA drew attention to the “alarming” deterioration in water quality as a result of nitrogen and phosphorus run-off, mainly from intensive livestock agriculture.

“The State has fundamentally failed to protect nature, and one of the most worrying things about that is that it was the biggest transgressor of its own laws and EU laws”, Dr Ní Shúilleabháin noted. Failure to act now, she added, and “we actually won’t have access to clean drinking water on this island”.

Early last year, EU Commission official Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea decried the “increasingly aggressive stance” being taken in Ireland against environmental defenders. He was particularly critical of calls by some politicians to de-fund environmental NGOs.

The thinly veiled contempt of many Irish politicians for nature protection was best articulated by then taoiseach Bertie Ahern, when in 2007 he expressed his frustration at delays in road-building projects “because of swans, snails and the occasional person hanging out of a tree”.

Anti-environmental rhetoric

If anything, the anti-environmental rhetoric has gotten far uglier since then. In recent weeks, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice denounced a draft EPA scientific report on land use and forestry as “ethnic cleansing of the agricultural community”, with other rural TDs calling for the document to be “incinerated”.

Is it that Irish people simply don’t care about nature? The top three heritage and nature charities in the UK have a combined membership of about 7m people, that’s roughly one in nine of the total population. In Ireland, our top three equivalent charities have a total of about 30,000 members, or about one in 166 of our population.

Even allowing for some historical differences, it beggars belief that the average British person is 18 times more likely to support a nature charity than their Irish counterpart.

Small wonder perhaps that some Irish politicians feel safe in siding with pressure groups whose business model involves water pollution, biodiversity collapse and the destruction of our uplands.

This abject neglect and vandalism of our priceless natural heritage is one of the greatest failures of the first century of Irish independence.

If we are to begin to reverse this disastrous trajectory, the first step is to take on board the Citizens Assembly recommendation and hold a referendum to amend our Constitution to give enforceable legal status to our right to a healthy natural environment — and the fundamental right for nature itself to simply exist.

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Natural-born killers wreak ecological havoc

According to the French Novelist, Victor Hugo, “God has made the cat to give man the pleasure of caressing the tiger.” It’s an apt description of these scaled-down apex predators. The fearsome toll they take on wildlife may come as a shock to many cat owners, but it’s well understood by ecologists, as I discussed in the Irish Examiner in April.

WHILE WE MAY think of them as cuddly and adorable, cats — both domestic and feral — are the ultimate natural-born killers, finely tuned by evolution with the agility, stealth and hunting instinct to wreak havoc on wildlife on a huge scale.

Globally, one in seven of all modern bird, mammal, and reptile extinctions are directly attributable to free-ranging cats on islands, according to the ‘Red List’ of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

A study in the United States estimated that cats kill between 1.4–4 billion birds annually, with two-thirds of these kills attributed to un-owned or feral cats. A recent UK report found cats responsible for killing between 160–270 million small animals a year, a quarter of which were birds, but these are likely to be significant underestimates.

A pandemic craze for buying cats, along with cat videos on social media has seen a significant increase in their overall numbers. It’s reckoned there are around 750,000 cats in Ireland and 12 million in Britain. And some owners who tired of their new cats after lockdown ended simply dumped them, leading to a rise in feral cat populations.

And, with the nesting season once again underway, this time of year young birds just learning to fledge offer easy pickings for cats.

There are few hard numbers on the likely toll taken by cats on Irish wildlife, but assuming the ratios are similar to Britain, they probably dispatch around 22 animals each annually, bringing the expected Irish death toll of birds and small mammals at the claws of cats to more than 16 million a year.

The State of the World’s Birds report published last year identified that 63% of Irish bird species are in serious decline — a figure significantly worse than the global average. Predation by cats is by no means the most serious threat they face, but it is especially acute in urban and suburban areas, where birds would otherwise escape from ongoing habitat loss, hedgerow clearances, and pesticide usage in many parts of rural Ireland.

A number of local authorities across Australia last year moved to introduce bans on cats being allowed to roam after dark. Cat owners face fines of $200 if their animals stray into council-owned bushland, but moves are also being considered to extend the ban to footpaths, roads, and verges, unless the cat is on a leash.

Australia has an acute problem with feral cats, with each one reckoned to kill on average 740 wild animals a year. Every day in Australia, domestic and feral cats kill around two million reptiles, three million mammals, and a million marsupials, as well as an unspecified number of birds.

While to their owners they can be a loving companion, once set loose, cats are a dangerous invasive species that need to be closely supervised. A program to trap and neuter feral cats (which are then released back into the wild) is also underway in Australia.

The kiwi, New Zealand’s famous flightless bird, is especially vulnerable to feral cats, rats, and weasels. The New Zealand government spends tens of millions of dollars annually clearing invasive species from its many small islands. Since Europeans first landed in both Australia and New Zealand, a wave of invasive species that accompanied them, from cats and rats to rabbits, have triggered waves of extinctions of vulnerable native species. Undoing even some of the damage is a Herculean task.

Last August the German town of Walldorf ordered all residents to lock their cats indoors throughout the summer for the next three years, in a last-gasp bid to save the ground-nesting crested lark, of which only three breeding pairs remain in the district. Owners face a €500 fine if their cat is caught outdoors; if it kills an endangered lark, the fine rises to a whopping €50,000.

While there are no indications as yet that Irish authorities are prepared to consider such draconian steps to curb killer kitties, there are some practical steps cat owners can take to greatly reduce the risks to wildlife:

The most effective is a dusk-till-dawn curfew, as both cats and birds are most active at these times of the day. The evidence on attaching a bell to your cat’s collar is inconclusive. An alternative is to fit your cat with a colourful bib, which will help alert birds to its presence.

Simply playing with your cat for at least 10 minutes a day has been shown in studies to reduce its urge to hunt. Some research also suggests feeding pet cats with a diet that includes meat-derived protein may help dampen the primal instincts of these pint-sized killing machines.

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When all hope is lost, keep fighting

On the one hand, it’s simply impossible to overstate just how dire the climate and biodiversity emergency really is, and in truth, most people either have no idea, or else are in absolute denial. So, is it already Game Over? I don’t know. Nobody knows for sure. On the other hand, all we can say is that if we give up now, the odds of a global catastrophe unfolding in the near to medium term approach 100%, as I teased out in this piece for the Business Post in early April.

HAVE CLIMATE talks become the place where hope goes to die? More than three decades ago, the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro opened with “messages of hope” from world leaders. The historic UN Framework Convention was formally signed in Rio in 1992, ostensibly signalling the launch of concerted efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

Hope has, decades later, still not translated into actions, nor have lavish political promises been matched by cuts in emissions. In fact, since 1990 more greenhouse gases have been dumped into the global atmosphere than in all of human history up to that point.

Fast forward to the recent launch of the synthesis report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, was characteristically blunt in stating that “humanity is on thin ice, and that ice is melting fast”, adding that the latest IPCC report is effectively a “survival guide for humanity”.

After the usual nods and platitudes from politicians and the lightest dusting of media coverage, this crisis disappeared from view within 24 hours of the report’s release. Are we in denial, or simply suffering from a surfeit of irrational optimism? Humans are, after all, wired for hope. Why else do people persist in buying lottery tickets despite the odds being stacked against them?

Psychologists recognise that most people have an innate optimism bias, and tend to assume that bad things will happen to others, not them. Smokers, for instance, think they are less likely to develop cancer than other smokers. People also tend to believe they are better drivers than they actually are. And of course, aren’t we all of above average intelligence?

When it comes to large-scale risks like climate breakdown, we in prosperous temperate countries like Ireland cling to the mindset that yes, it’s happening, but not here, not now, and certainly not to us. How else to explain that, in the midst of a climate emergency, Irish emissions rose sharply last year, and there was opposition to even the mildest pro-climate or biodiversity actions?

Given that the situation is rapidly spinning out of control and nobody seems to either know what to do, or cares enough to even bother trying, is it time to face reality and throw in the towel?

It’s almost exactly 20 years since I was first confronted, almost by accident, with the stark reality of the ecological crisis. For most of the time since then I’ve been trying to raise awareness in the vain hope that it would in some small way help contribute to action on the scale needed to avert disaster.

All these years later, I feel like just another climate Cassandra, with the ability to clearly see what’s coming, but cursed never to be believed. The suspicion remains that while it might still be just about possible to avoid the worst outcomes, we as a species may, in essence, have already chosen to fail.

Hope is an essential component of the human condition but when it persists in the teeth of repeated abject failure, hope can seem more like a narcotic with which we dose ourselves to dull our existential angst.

Then 16-year old activist Greta Thunberg electrified the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in 2019 when stating: “Adults keep saying: ‘we owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

Many climate communicators disagree, arguing that focusing on the negative causes people to tune out. A report published last year by the American Psychological Association offered advice to its membership on how to address the climate crisis, including warning about the debilitating effects of excessive climate anxiety.

There is, however, a thin line between fear and despair. A paper in the elite science journal Nature in 2020 explored optimistic versus pessimistic framing of climate communications. Its findings were surprising: “The results suggest that climate change appeals with pessimistic endings could trigger higher engagement with the issue than optimistic endings.”

Fear, after all, is a powerful motivator. The Nature study added that setting out climate risks pessimistically increased “emotional arousal”, especially among what it termed political moderates and conservatives, the very groups most likely to understate climate risks.

“Optimistic endings may comfort a public suffering from apocalypse fatigue, but do not appear to increase risk perception or outcome efficacy,” it added. We are, in other words, lulled into a false sense of security by ‘hopeful’ climate messaging that is completely at odds with the reality of the unfolding crisis.

The real worry about despair is that it may morph into doomism, a belief that all is already lost. Succumbing to this view is a self-fulfilling death wish. If we believe it’s all over and give up, then yes, the remaining window for action closes permanently and our worst fears become reality.

For some, doomism is a final refuge, having exhausted all other options after years of struggle. For others it’s a handy get-out clause, allowing them to shrug wearily about how it’s all too late anyhow as they drive their SUV to the airport for their fifth flight of the year.

In this sense, doomism is just climate denialism in a cheap tuxedo, since both doomers and deniers are united in their shared commitment to do absolutely nothing about the climate emergency. In the rapid online spread of what is known as climate disaster porn, there is also the distinct whiff of bad actors at play.

“Fossil fuel interests have actually weaponised doomism, as they recognise it leads climate advocates down the path of despair, hopelessness and disengagement,” Professor Michael Mann, the US climatologist and author, said.

To be clear, those who say it’s already too late may yet be proven to be absolutely right, and any reasonable reading of the science suggests there’s a good chance they are. However, there are also still very real opportunities to ease the level of suffering and death for countless millions of people and species this century, including our own children, and all future generations.

As long as any chance remains, however faint, it’s deeply immoral to even think about giving up the fight. The stakes could hardly be higher. After all, life itself is now on the line.

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Progress through technology? Nein, danke

Every country has its deeply entrenched lobby group, and in the case of Germany, its massive motor industry pulls the political strings, exercising a negative influence on policy throughout the EU. Ever wonder why European regulations on emissions from cars are weaker than their US counterparts? That’s the handiwork of the German car lobby. And, having been left on the starting line as EV technology is bringing in the most dramatic changes to the sector in over a century, the German industry is once again trying to hit the brakes on progress, as I wrote in the Irish Examiner.

EARLY ONE morning in July 2021, businessman Radim Passer raced his 1,500-horsepower sports car on a German motorway (autobahn), hitting 417 km/hr. Although the German transport ministry criticised the stunt as dangerous, what Passer did was perfectly legal, and he faced no sanction.

Germany is the only country in Europe to have no speed limits whatever on sections of its autobahn network. While famed for its prudence and moderation, Germany’s guilty secret is its love affair with speed, and its powerful motor industry lobby exerts a virtual stranglehold both on domestic politics and even across the EU.

This week, European Parliament president Roberta Metsola rebuked last-minute German attempts to block EU legislation phasing out all internal combustion engines in cars by 2035.

This legislation has already been passed by the parliament and that needed to be respected, Metsola said, adding the credibility of the EU was now at stake.

Transport accounts for one fifth of all emissions in the EU and the transition to electric vehicles is a vital element in the union’s roadmap towards net zero.

The International Energy Agency projects that production of all petrol and diesel engines for light vehicles has to end no later than 2035 if transport emissions are to fall in line with what the science demands.

Clinging to obsolete technology

German prowess in motor engineering is best captured in the industry motto “Vorsprung durch Technik” (Progress through Technology) yet ironically, the desperate attempt by some major manufacturers to cling to what is rapidly becoming obsolete technology threatens its own long-term survival, as well as helping to shred critical climate targets.

The fudge being pushed by German chancellor Olaf Scholz is the idea that what are called e-fuels could continue to be used instead of petrol and diesel, thus allowing internal combustion cars to continue in production indefinitely.

E-fuels are manufactured synthetically, but require enormous amounts of energy. Analysis published this week by the Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) found the average driver would end up paying €210 to fill their tank with e-fuels, some 50% more expensive than petrol today.

E-fuels are carbon-neutral but they do emit air pollutants, notably the toxic nitrogen dioxide.

“Ultimately e-fuels will be no more than a niche solution for Porsche drivers, but by undermining the clarity of the engine phase-out for the sake of an expensive and polluting fuel, Chancellor Scholtz is risking Europe’s green transition and the future of its car industry,” according to Alex Keynes of T&E.

Not all German car-manufacturers are hobbled by their own legacies. Audi’s chief executive Martin Duesmann said: “We have made a clear decision: we are phasing out the internal combustion engine in 2033 because the battery-electric vehicle is the most efficient method for individual mobility.” This stance is also backed by Volvo and Ford.

Having long dominated the international market for luxury cars, the German motor industry has been markedly slow to begin the transition to electric vehicle (EV) technology, allowing rival upstarts like the US brand Tesla to make large inroads into prestige car sales and grab the headlines as EV technology rapidly matures.

Despite the antics of its capricious CEO Elon Musk, Tesla’s market value is today greater than the vastly larger Toyota, General Motors and Ford companies combined. The smart investment money accepts the move to electric vehicles is now as inevitable as the transition from the horse-and-trap to the motor car was a century ago.

Companies who stubbornly fail to make the technological leap face being wiped out in the way Nokia, once the world’s largest mobile phone company, was obliterated in less than a decade when it failed to adapt to the arrival of smartphones.

Chinese manufacturers, meanwhile, are expected to bring about 80 new models of EVs to the market in the next year or two, spanning entry level to luxury models, while many European car-makers cling to their former glories.

What is particularly baffling about this German-led move to scupper the transition to EVs is that just last year, both Volkswagen and Mercedes publicly announced their support for the EU ban on combustion engine sales by 2035, while BMW had announced plans to have an all-electric line-up of cars by 2030.


In the early 2000s, the motor industry invested heavily in so-called ‘clean diesel’ technology, with companies spending billions on new engine systems that promised lower carbon emissions and less tailpipe pollution.

This proved technically impossible to achieve, so Volkswagen secretly installed electronic ‘cheat’ mechanisms into some of their cars that detected when they were being formally tested and changed the emissions settings so they would pass tough US Environment Protection Agency tests.

The scandal known as ‘Dieselgate’ cost Volkswagen billions in fines for criminal charges and included the recall of half a million cars. Several other manufacturers were subsequently found to be involved in similar cheating.

The upshot of Dieselgate was to confirm that no amount of techno-fixes could clean up dirty fossil fuels and the only path for the industry was to make the clean break and move to all-electric drivetrains.

Whether a spineless German coalition government, egged on by an industry determined not to learn its lesson succeeds in wrecking the EU’s climate ambition now hangs in the balance.

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Dire warnings falling on deaf ears

March saw the launch of the IPCC’s AR6 Synthesis Report, which brings together the three main strands, as well as other IPCC special reports, into a unified, albeit hefty, document. Despite its quite shocking conclusions, it made barely a ripple in terms of media coverage, and had largely disappeared from the Irish news cycle within 24 hours. The below was published in the Irish Examiner in late March.

IT IS SAID that at the start of every disaster movie, there’s a scientist being ignored. They are usually portrayed as ashen-faced nerds waving sheafs of data as the politicians and media stifle a yawn. Until, of course, calamity strikes.

Still, the great thing about the movies is that, no matter how scary things get, the audience can enjoy the white-knuckle ride in the certain knowledge that, as the final credits roll and the lights come up, the world will be exactly as they left it a couple of hours earlier. Continue reading

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To save our world, we must fall in love with nature

In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught”. These words were spoken at the 1968 General Assembly of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature by Senegalese forester, Baba Dioum, and they came to mind when reading ‘Wild Embrace’, ecologist Anja Murray’s new book. My review was published in the Business Post in March.

IRELAND HAS fallen out of love with nature. Our famously green island is now ecologically depleted and almost bereft of truly wild places. Most of us live lives entirely separated from the natural world.

While we may choose to deny it, humans are but one species among millions, all connected by the long thread of evolution, all interdependent and sharing a profoundly rich common heritage. In this book, ecologist and broadcaster Anja Murray seeks to rekindle our love affair with the world around us, if only we take the time and effort to seek it out.

Opening our eyes to the incredible variety, mystery and beauty of wild nature is both invigorating and deeply disturbing, as we come to understand the depth and severity of the ecological crisis that threatens to tear down its very foundations.

Consider the plight of the majestic salmon, the king of fish. Venerated in Irish legends for their wisdom and grace, salmon have come to represent “good health, long life and knowledge”, Murray writes.

Their epic life cycles are also legendary. Salmon undergo a year-long migration of up to 3,000 km before returning to the exact river from where they were spawned, swimming upstream against the current and leaping natural obstacles to reach their own spawning grounds. In recent decades, Murray notes, “their trips upstream [have become] blocked by dams, weirs, culverts, road crossings and bridge foundations, all of which are barriers to migration”.

Worse, many of the pools and shallows along rivers essential for spawning have been destroyed, “as river channels are dredged to drain off farmland as part of arterial drainage works”. As the final insult, more than half our rivers are so polluted by fertiliser run-off that oxygen levels are too low for successful spawning.

While not flinching from reporting on the destruction of nature, Murray’s writing is most animated when she is describing the quotidian wonders that surround us. Take lichen, a symbiosis of fungi and algae, of which there are some 1,200 species in Ireland. Some lichen may be 5,000 years of age, making them our oldest living organisms by far.

Insects comprise more than half of all animal species in Ireland. “Our entire existence depends on them,” Murray adds. She is bewildered to find that “otherwise enlightened, nature-loving people reach for ant spray as soon as an ant appears on the garden patio.”

With thousands of tons of highly toxic pesticides applied to Irish fields, gardens and roadside verges every year, it’s as if we are at war with nature. Murray singles out recent dairy intensification for driving the “subsidised annihilation of Ireland’s biodiversity, which is a scandalous use of public money and a tragic demise of the rich tapestry of life” that was once associated with traditional agricultural landscapes.

The Irish name for ladybird is “bóin Dé”, which delightfully translates as “the little cow of God”. It arises from the medieval belief that ladybirds were sent from the heavens to save food crops from being destroyed. An average ladybird consumes 5,000 greenflies in its lifetime, making them superb natural pest managers. We could, Murray suggests, do with reviving some of the respect our ancestors held for the natural world and all the creatures, small and great, who inhabit it.

For the author, the magic of wild places is both intimate and personal. She sees nature as a balm that heals the body and calms the mind. While caring for her terminally ill mother, Murray experienced acute sadness and emotional distress that only reconnecting with the wilderness could ease. “I craved the reassurance of being bathed in dappled light, and the soothing soundtrack of the rust brown river running over pebble banks and gurgling around boulders.”

To love is to experience loss. Murray’s anguish at the relentless assaults on our environment, whether via bog mining, grassland monocultures or marine destruction, is palpable.

Ireland needs to rekindle its lost love of nature, and Anja Murray’s sparkling, accessible and often romantic personal account, with illustrations by Jane Carkill, is a very good place to start.

Wild Embrace: Connecting to the Wonder of Ireland’s Natural World by Anja Murray, Hachette Books, €14.99

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Feeding aircraft while people go hungry

As the squeeze on heavy users of fossil fuels to be seen to be cleaning up their act intensifies, there is now a flurry of activity especially from the aviation sector behind promoting “renewable” fuels such as biofuels and synthetic fuels. There are, however, some pretty major downsides, as I set out in the Irish Examiner in March.

IT IS SAID that for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple – and wrong. Few problems are more complex than decarbonising the aviation industry, and the simplest solutions now being touted include turn vast swathes of farmland into fuel to feed its voracious appetite for energy.

A report published earlier this week by Aircraft Leasing Ireland claimed that the use of biofuels and synthetic fuels could reduce emissions by up to 90% compared with aviation kerosene.

Ireland, the report’s authors argue, is well placed to develop and produce what it terms sustainable aviation fuel, thanks to our expanding renewable energy sector, as well as the use of residues from agriculture and forestry. It is looking for government support, in other words, subsidies, to bring these claimed new energy source to fruition. Continue reading

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Bringing airborne plastic pollution down to earth

What goes up, must eventually come down again, and so it is with helium balloons, a pernicious form of pollution that rarely receives the critical attention it warrants. One happy side-effect of writing the below piece for the Irish Examiner was that it may have helped persuade my teenager’s school to forego a planned balloon release to ‘celebrate’ the end of term for sixth year students.

IT WAS A bright, chilly morning as I emerged from a ceremony at the crematorium at Dublin’s Mount Jerome Cemetery. In the distance, dozens of balloons drifted overhead, having just been released by another funeral party to honour their deceased relative.

It’s a nice idea. As one Dublin-based balloon company describes it: “balloon releases at funerals are becoming more popular as a visual expression of love. This growing trend seems like the appropriate metaphor for a loved one’s spirit as it ascends through the air”. A number of Irish funeral directors list balloon releases among the services they provide. Continue reading

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A 15-minute walk on the wild side

There is no idea too moderate or sensible that conspiracy theorists can’t tar as a Marxist plot to turn us all into slaves in some dystopian new world order. Well, at least that’s the impression you might have gotten in seeing how, of all things, plans to make city and town centres less awful is in fact some fiendish plot to take away our liberties, as I explored in the Business Post in early March.

IF YOU COULD somehow start from scratch and design the perfect city or town for the 21st century, what might it look like? Ideally, you could comfortably reach your workplace, schools, shops, healthcare locations and recreation spaces on foot or by bike in 15 minutes or less, as well as being able to stroll to a public transport hub to take you further afield.

In this ideal world, rather than people sitting in traffic for hundreds of hours every year, car ownership in urban areas would be very much the exception, with most people opting for car rental or sharing for the odd occasion when a set of wheels is needed.

A recent YouGov population study found that one in three people in Ireland would ideally like to live in a so-called 15-minute city, yet only one in ten say they are within comfortable walking distance of these key amenities today.

To make the 15-minute city a reality requires compact urban development, with enough people living in close proximity to support local shops and services, and high-frequency public transport. A study titled Close to Home published in 2021 concluded that Irish cities “have a unique opportunity to increase the quality of urban lifestyles, catalyse local economies and support the country to live and work more sustainably”.

For many of us, the 15-minute city arrived unexpectedly and as an unwelcome intrusion when, in March 2020, the first national pandemic lockdown came into force. This initially limited people to venturing no more than two kilometres from home.

In a matter of days, the patterns of working, commuting and recreation that had dominated our lives for decades were swept away. Many worked from home for the first time in their lives, while children endured endless Zoom classroom sessions from their bedrooms.

Amid the gloom, there were some tangible upsides. My teenagers dusted off their long-neglected bikes and cycled off to meet their pals every day, scooting around the near-deserted streets of south Co Dublin. They finally got to enjoy the kind of freedom of movement our car-choked roads have denied to generations of children. They cycled more in those first few months than in their entire lives prior to March 2020.

Those fortunate enough to have key amenities close at hand are likely to have found the whole Covid lockdown experience far less stressful. Indeed, 59 per cent of respondents to the YouGov study described walkability as making their neighbourhood a more desirable place to live.

In some respects this is all painfully obvious, yet the overwhelming primacy of the private car has so distorted both the built environment and our ideas of what freedom and choice are that for many, their belief in their absolute right to drive and park anywhere, any time, is unshakeable.

Indeed, opposition to this most benign of notions – building urban areas that meet the needs of the people who live there without forcing them into their cars – is gaining traction. It has been co-opted by right-wing conspiracy theorists as some kind of Marxist attack on your freedom and part of a cynical ploy to enforce what they describe as ‘climate lockdowns’.

Many of these strange ideas were incubated online during lockdown, when medical professionals attempting to control a dangerous novel virus were denounced as part of a sinister plot to imprison and subdue the population.

While it is understandable that a minority might prefer to believe conspiracy theories than trust their doctors, given the very real constraints that Covid regulations placed on people’s lives, the storm around something as innocuous and benign as progressive urban planning has caught many by surprise.

This spilled on to the streets of Oxford in England last month as a result of a planned trial by the local authority of a low-traffic neighbourhood – an area within the city where, as the name suggests, vehicular traffic is restricted to allow more safe space for the public.

Astonishingly, this most fringe of conspiracies attracted around 2,000 people on to the streets, toting signs with slogans like: ‘Say NO to the new world order. Say NO to 15-min prison cities. Wake up, people!’

Years of decline, worsened by growing inequality, while politicians stoke up anti-migrant xenophobia to distract from the post-Brexit economic fiasco, has seen the once politically moderate Britain become a breeding ground for paranoia and extremism.

Climate deniers have for years attempted to portray action on the climate emergency as cover for a sinister globalist agenda to take away people’s liberties. Prior to the pandemic, this absurd fallacy had limited traction.

However, Covid changed everything. The trauma it created “has been weaponised by the anti-climate lobby, who now condemn any public policy as an ‘infringement on civil liberties’ and draw direct comparisons with Covid”, Jennie King of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue told

The group styling itself ‘Not Our Future’, which stirred up opposition to traffic restrictions in Oxford by promoting conspiracy theories, is supported by a network of climate denial groups – including the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation, an organisation that has consistently refused to disclose its funding sources.

While not embracing far-right conspiracies, proposals in Ireland involving even modest modal shift away from the absolute hegemony of the car have sparked bitter opposition.

Residents in Sandymount in Dublin took a successful High Court action against a six-month trial of bike lanes, while attempts to provide safe cycle lanes to a local school in Deansgrange sparked sustained opposition from local businesses. Meanwhile, in car-choked Galway, councillors last year rejected plans for a trial cycleway out to Salthill.

Last week, it emerged that a memo on developing a new strategy to cut Ireland’s dependence on the private car was deemed too controversial to be included on the cabinet agenda, with politicians from both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael running scared of offending motorists.

The net effect of this is to leave Ireland’s 2030 transport emissions targets in tatters. For as long as politicians are more concerned about lobbyists and special interests than they are about climate breakdown, this failure of ambition and of imagination will persist.

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Violent words beget violent actions

By and large, Ireland is a tolerant country, spared the worst excesses of polarisation that have blighted post-Brexit Britain and the US after Trump. There has, however, been a creeping slide towards ugly extremism in the last couple of years, and this is seen most clearly in efforts by agri-industrial pressure groups and their political cheerleaders to demonise environmental defenders. This hasn’t happened by accident, but what I have found so astonishing is how little media traction or even political comment this has attracted. Were these same level of abuse being aimed at women, immigrants, the travelling community or almost any other sector you care to name, there would be thundering editorials and current affairs programmes and phone-in shows calling this out. There are, however, no consequences whatever for attacking people whose only ‘vested interest’ is in fighting climate change and biodiversity loss, as I discussed in the Irish Examiner in late February.

THE VITRIOL being aimed at public representatives was explored on the Late Late Show recently, when TDs Holly Cairns and Neasa Hourigan told of the sustained and often deeply misogynistic abuse they received.

At the weekend, junior minister Anne Rabbitte described the trauma for her and fellow TD Ciaran Cannon of being pelted with a bag of cow dung at a public meeting in Galway last month. Rabbitte says she is now limiting her public appearances as a result. Continue reading

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