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March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day: Ireland losing its Green


Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

I considered celebrating by providing the obligatory look at how to green your beer (both in the literal sense, and in the environmental sense, here, here, and here), but it's been done before.

Instead, let's take a peek at what's happening in the country that's nearly synonymous with the color near and dear to our hearts: green ol' Ireland.

Yesterday, the Irish American Climate issued a detailed report outlining how Ireland's landscape is projected to look with the onset of climate change.

Ireland's climate trends look very similar to those impacting my native Seattle: extreme increases in rainfall in the winter leading to bad flooding and significant agricultural challenges, followed by summer droughts where dry river beds are the norm and the green fields Ireland is known for go brown.

"The lush greens could turn to brown and the soft rains that people talk about as a blessing - 'May the rains fall soft upon your field' - those soft rains could turn harsh," said Kevin Sweeney, an environmental consultant who directs the climate project. "It really is changing the look and feel of Ireland".

Among other findings, the report said:

  • Potatoes, the quintessential staple of Irish agriculture, might cease to be a commercial crop under the stress of prolonged summer droughts;
  • Dried grasses in summer and autumn would change hillsides from green to brown;
  • Pastures could be saturated until late spring, making it impossible for livestock to graze; instead, farmers would plant row crops to grow animal feed, a change in the look of Ireland.

On the plus side, the South East of Ireland will have more of a Mediterranean climate. Maybe decades from now, St. Paddy's Day will see us exchanging our pints of Guinness for green-colored Irish wine. Let's hope not.

Irish American Climate Institute Report

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Great post. It's easy for me to focus on how climate change will effect my own town and area. But the most effective way to really 'get it' is seeing information like this: totally effecting a place I've visited and love. It's tough to hear this kind of information...

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