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Report warns of threat to beaches from climate change

Source: Irish Times

Dramatic changes in climate could have an adverse effect on Irish tourism and heritage later this century, with popular beaches rendered inaccessible by rising sea levels, a new report has concluded.

The report, Climate Change, Heritage and Tourism , investigates how the changes in temperature and climate will affect the heritage of Ireland’s coastlines, and inland waterways.

Its authors, Marty Stack of Fáilte Ireland and Beatrice Kelly of the Heritage Council, have found that some of Ireland’s built coastal heritage – such as Martello towers, castles, historic houses and promontory forts – may suffer damage due to increased frequency and intensity in storm and water surges, and coastal erosion.

Basing their study on the findings of the Icarus unit in NUI Maynooth under Prof John Sweeney, the two authors said that rising sea levels would have implications for popular beaches which may be eroded, submerged or remain wet all day due to rising sea levels and increased storms.

“This may be worse at places where coastal defensive measures have already been taken. This will have a significant effect on the vitality of a number of popular seaside resorts.

“Also, with fewer beaches to visit, remaining beaches may become more crowded and less attractive,” it stated.

Ms Stack said that beaches in the east and southeast would be particularly affected, should water levels rise.

Turning to the natural heritage, Ms Kelly said that rising temperatures would make Ireland unsuitable for some species of plants and animals.

She instanced the pressure the kittiwake and guillemot bird populations are under in the North Sea because of rising water temperature.

She also emphasised that rising temperatures will also magnify pollution problems.

She instanced vulnerable species associated with Ireland, including salmon.

However, the authors also noted one comparatively positive consequence.

“Relative to Mediterranean regions, which may become too hot for tourists during the summer, Ireland as a tourism destination may benefit from increased visitor numbers as a result of climate change,” states the report.

The report was launched yesterday by Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, who said its publication was evidence that Ireland was “mainstreaming the issue of climate change”.

Mr Gormley said the tourist market in Ireland should not be aimed at stag weekends which he found “irritating”.

“We need high-quality tourists, people with their guide books to Newgrange and people who go to our national parks because they are a real gem,” he said.

He said that it was the sheer unpredictability of climate change that was most worrying.

He said that at this stage it is not known what exact impact it is going to have, even though parts of the country will suffer from higher precipitation and storm surges.






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