Shining a Rae of light on reality of climate change

WHEN it comes to the climate change debate, I have a lot in common with Danny Healy-Rae. 

Neither of us are scientists, nor have any expertise in climate. We’re both boggers who are worried about the future of farming. We both get confused about the difference between the weather and climate. 

It’s at this point that we start to diverge. Danny shouts his ignorance into the Dail record without checking facts. He claims human behaviour has not caused climate change and disputes its very existence. Instead, I will try to set out the truth. 

Healy-Rae says that in 1913 “there was some place in Arizona where the warmest date ever was recorded, and this was before machinery and industrial activity, so we couldn’t have caused that”. 

This strikes a chord with farmers who watch the weather like no-one else. They point to how there was a scorching dry summer in 1995 but 2007 was a washout, despite claims the planet is heating up. 

Donald Trump uses a similar tactic, like his tweet during the winter of 2012, “It’s freezing and snowing in New York — we need global warming”. It’s a favourite of climate change deniers, confusing weather and climate to muddle the debate. 

This explanation from Nasa might help clear things up: “The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. 

“Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere ‘behaves’ over relatively long periods of time.”

A simpler way of understanding this is that climate is what you expect at certain times of the year, like a frosty November. Weather is what you get, like a sudden cold snap out of nowhere or a heatwave. 

Even though we’ve had the odd freezing winter, the average air temperature in Ireland is 0.8°C higher today compared to 100 years ago. All Irish seasons are warmer than ever before. 

The irrefutable truth is that our climate has changed, the Earth is heating up and 2016 will be the hottest on record. 

Another favourite of deniers is throwing the ozone layer into it. Healy-Rae again: “There was a lot of talk about the ozone layer, and now we’re told it’s repairing itself. We were told it was cattle and cows and airsprays, and now that it was nuclear airborne testing that was carried out 50 years ago that damaged the ozone layer.”

This muddies the waters even further, but Nasa experts can help the Kerry TD here too: “The ozone hole and global warming are not the same thing, and neither is the main cause of the other.” 

The ozone did start repairing itself, when CFCs were banned in the 1980s. His claim about nuclear testing is totally false. 

Climate change in a nutshell: CO2 gases from fossil fuels and methane from farming are causing excess greenhouse gases which melt the polar ice caps and cause changes to the temperature of the Earth’s surface. 

In the EU, farming makes up an average of 12 per cent of these emissions. In Ireland that figure is 33 per cent, and there are plans to increase our dairy production by 50 per cent over the next four years. 

Methane from cows traps up to 72 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over 20 years. Cattle farming also requires more land than poultry or vegetables so CO2 emissions from its production is far greater. 

This is why campaigners like Mary Robinson and Leonardo DiCaprio are appealing to consumers to eat less beef to save the planet. 

The final tactic of climate change deniers is that scientists are being bribed to promote the hoax. Healy-Rae says he has suspicions that €419million raised in carbon taxes are used for this. 

The opposite is in fact the case as 97 per cent of scientists with climate expertise agree that climate change is real. Among the three per cent who don’t agree are scientists largely from organisations funded by oil companies. 

Take one example of a prominent US academic who denies climate change, Willie Soon, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. Soon refuses to accept rising greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial age are causing the change, saying it’s driven by the sun. Last year, it was revealed Soon received a total of $1.25million from three major oil companies. 

This is the sort of “expert” in the same camp as Danny Healy-Rae, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin.

The Kerry TD earns major media coverage every time he denies the climate crisis. This is only because he does it in a colourful way that livens up dull news bulletins. What the media has not examined is why he says it, but it’s interesting to note the following:

The Healy-Rae political machine has lobbied on behalf of the fossil-fuel-loving motor industry. Michael Healy-Rae proposed the car registration change in 2012 for 131-reg plates to boost car sales. The family owns a gas-guzzling plant hire firm that famously earns millions in taxpayer-funded contracts including Irish Water. They own a filling station in Kilgarvan. 

Most importantly, a Healy-Rae core demographic is farmers. But unlike farmers, the two TDs have enormous public funds at their disposal to research and find out the facts about climate change before reading irresponsible falsehoods into the Dail record.

Another UN climate change summit will end tomorrow and we’ll see how politics is failing the future environment of the planet yet again. 

That’s because politics is a short-term sport and climate change needs long-term thinking.

TD Kelly is going off the tracks 

SEMPLE Stadium has reacted angrily to being left out of Ireland’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid. 

The Tipp home of hurling’s lack of nearby hotels is said to be the reason for its exclusion. 

What Tipperary lacks in resources it makes up for with ambition. Its two most famous TDs Alan Kelly and Michael Lowry promise and deliver, even when it makes no sense. 

The Alan Kelly Memorial Train costs a staggering €550 per passenger to move 73 people from Ballybrophy to Limerick. Bull-headed Kelly reacted angrily to calls for its closure this week. 

He went off the rails before the election when he said he felt “power is a drug”. It’s one drug he won’t find at Tipperary South Hospital, which is getting a 30-bed facility from the Government, shortly after Lowry voted for Enda as Taoiseach and gave his unofficial support to the Coalition. 

Of course, Health Minister Simon Harris denied this was part of a secret deal with Lowry in return for his support. 

Lowry was chair of Semple Stadium’s management committee in the 1980s. Not even his close friendship with Enda could convince the Government to add Thurles to the 2023 bid. 

The event is seven years away, and we can’t be sure of much, except for the fact that there will certainly still be a Lowry TD in Tipperary. A Kelly TD may be a different story. 

Judging by Labour’s recent poll figures, and Alan’s ranting interviews, he’s on a train to nowhere.

What is behind O’Brien silence?

MEDIA ownership is one of the most important issues for democracy in this country today. 

In 2014, the debate raged over what the Government would do about the lack of plurality in the media. 

Specifically that one man, Denis O’Brien, holds an interest in too many newspapers in Ireland under Independent News and Media and also too many radio stations through Communicorp. 

There was anger when the Government announced new laws that would only curb excessive media ownership in the future, but that O’Brien’s present empire would remain untouched. 

At the very least, we were assured the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 would prevent any one person’s ownership of media increasing, in theory. 

It is a matter of public concern that even after these new laws were introduced, a State agency allowed INM to acquire seven more regional newspapers. 

This is the very thing the new law was surely supposed to prevent.

Independent reports have shown that too much media power is vested in too few interests and it needs to be tackled.

This week Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused to be drawn on whether he thought that the latest O’Brien merger was acceptable and ruled out an inquiry on media ownership in general. 

He came to power promising reform and accepted the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal that made adverse findings against O’Brien. 

There seems to be less media discussion about the latest merger in INM newspapers or Communicorp radio stations. 

What is worrying is that RTE — the only group powerful enough to highlight and ask questions about this massive issue — has chosen to remain mostly silent.

Dobbo’s Dollop

A NEW Trump-ist right-wing political party is due to be set up in Dublin. 

One hotel has already refused to host them so they had to go on the lookout for another suitable venue. 

Perhaps some looked to the Gibson Hotel, mistakenly thinkging it sounds like it’s been named after America’s second favourite bigot, Mel Gibson? 

He’s also in Dublin these days, although this time he’s making a film rather than making a show of himself. So what will Ireland’s right-wing party look like? Little is known about the new group so far.

We know America’s version is a billionaire comb-over who isn’t racist, he just prefers people with white or orange skin. 

And the UK’s answer is beer-swilling Nigel Farage. He’s less orange, more jaundiced — like his views on immigrants. 

Apparently the ‘National Party’ of Ireland will include a farmer as its deputy president, while former Mother and Child Campaign spokesman Justin Barrett, pictured right, is its president.

So Ireland’s version of Donald Trump may look like a cross between Glenroe’s Miley Byrne and Jeremy Clarkson. 

Sorry National Party, we already have a place for storing all our ignorant, bigoted, anti-immigrant people. It’s called Dail Eireann. 

The new group may struggle to get mainstream coverage. What chat show in their right mind is going to put some shouty moron on live television? 

The Late Late Show is all stocked up these days. 

Katie Hopkins attracted 1,300 complaints after her petulant Daily Mail stand-up routine last Friday. Dad Anthony must be mortified.