Extreme weather events in Ireland will become a lot more severe, a lot more quickly, as a result of global warming and climate change, climate scientist at the University of St Andrews Dr Michael Byrne has said.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Monday, Dr Byrne, who was one of the scientists who contributed to the IPCC report on climate change announced this week, said that while the report doesn’t have any new science in it, it gives an up-to-date assessment on thousands of new research papers on how climate is changing and how they expect climate to change in the future.

“What we're very certain that the report will say is that it will reiterate what we've known for more than a decade, the climate is warming, human activities are the main driver and it's going to get worse unless we take some kind of radical action.

“Back in 2013, at the time of the last report, the evidence was very inconclusive about how extreme weather events, which we’re seeing almost on a weekly basis around the world, how those are linked to climate change.

“But since 2013, both the scientific methodology has advanced on linking these events to climate change and also it's been eight years and climate change itself has advanced, and now the effects of climate change on these events are now more apparent because more time has passed,” he said.

Extreme events

“What we're expecting from this report is clear evidence that these extreme events now are bearing the hallmarks of climate change and particularly in this part of the world, so in Ireland and northern Europe, we know from the literature that the evidence is particularly strong, so extreme heat and rainfall events have increased in frequency and intensity since the 1950s.

“There's now substantial confidence that humans have contributed to those changes in extreme events,” he said.

When asked if the report suggests that Ireland will see more heatwaves and heavier rainfall events, he said absolutely.

“We currently have about 1.1°C of global warming and some of these effects, for example heavy rainfall, is expected to increase even more rapidly than the global average temperature change.

“This is absolutely going to be an increasing feature of our climate over the coming decades,” Dr Byrne said.

He added that the report will make clear that there was still time to limit global warming to the 1.5°C target which was agreed by governments in the Paris agreements of 2015.

“So 1.5°C was set as a target, if you go past 1.5°C of warming the impacts of climate change, largely these extreme weather events, become a lot more severe, a lot more quickly,” he said.

He said that Government targets of net zero carbon emissions by 2060 or 2050 or 2040 is almost certain not to be ambitious or quick enough to meet the 1.5°C target.