The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service has said the 2021 European summer was the warmest on record; above, people make the most of the sunshine on Claycastle and Redbarn beaches in east Cork in July. Picture: Denis Minihane.
The last seven years were the hottest on record by a clear distance, with both carbon and methane emissions driving the rise.
The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service has said global concentrations of carbon dioxide, and especially methane, continue to increase.
The 10 warmest years for Europe have all occurred since 2000, with the seven warmest years being 2014 to 2020.
“The 2021 European summer was the warmest on record, though close to previous warmest summers in 2010 and 2018," Copernicus said.
"June and July were both the second warmest of their respective months, while August was close to average overall, but saw a large split between above-average temperatures in the south and below-average temperatures in the north."
Methane has become a conundrum for Irish political leaders, with scientists saying it is a real driver of the country’s emissions, but politicians are reluctant to take action that would alienate rural voters.
Beef and dairy cattle are among the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, with cows mainly generating methane through digestion and waste.
Talks of a cut to the size of the herd have been met with fierce resistance from farming lobbyists, while government figures have shied away from the politically-charged talk of doing so.
The Copernicus findings on methane correlate with the latest figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which show methane reached its highest in almost 40 years of records last September.
Hannah Daly, UCC lecturer in sustainable energy and energy systems modelling, described methane as a turbocharged greenhouse gas.
“Methane’s concentration in the atmosphere is now two and a half times greater than it would be, and globally, emissions arise mainly from agriculture, waste, and fossil fuel extraction,” she said.
“In Ireland, high levels of methane is emitted from beef and dairy production, and emissions grew by nearly one-fifth since 2010.
“The consensus from scientists is that all sources of greenhouse gases must fall immediately and sharply to limit dangerous climate change.”
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