Changing Shades of Green: The environmental and cultural impacts of climate change in Ireland The Irish American Climate Project
“Here, finally, we may see a silver lining in the clouds that caused the scattering of Ireland's daughters and sons.”

Easter, 2016

Historical trends are often revealed slowly. We tend not to notice the growing movement until an event forces the acknowledgment. Some trends require an individual or a band of leaders to serve as catalysts. Yeats' epic poem, “Easter, 1916,” described a particular
moment when Irish history was altered.

All changed, changed utterly.
A terribly beauty is born.

In a similar way, weather extremes can catch our attention. (As scientists and writers focused on climate change, we don't consider it a stretch to label this a similarity!) Americans have Katrina as a climate touchstone. The French recall the heat wave of 2003, which killed nearly 15,000 in France and 35,000 across Europe. The British talk of massive floods in the summer of 2007. These events are interpreted by many to be symptoms of a changing climate. They offer glimpses of what the best climate models predict will occur with greater frequency over the course of this century. Still, climates change slowly.

In Ireland, there may not be a moment, or a day, when the full force of a changing climate is recognizable to all at once. There may not be an event that catalyzes a nation. There may not be a speech or a poem that stirs the collective heart. But as we have noted, the changes will come. They may appear to be subtle, at least at first glance: shifts in rainfall, changing patterns of flora, a narrowing of the color range one might experience on a favorite hike.

For each of us, there may be moments of personal recognition, moments of looking back, when we see this clearly. What was not visible on a daily basis will be unavoidably visible over the years. These alterations will accumulate. They will have their impact. All will have changed, changed utterly.

Our intent with this report has been to help the reader understand how global warming will change the look and feel of Ireland. The extent of these changes, however, is not yet certain. Their extent will depend, largely, on changes the various nations make in their energy policies, and the speed with which those policy changes are adopted. Their extent will depend, as well, on changes individuals make in their energy consumption, and the speed at which those changes are embraced.

There is a role for each of us. There is a role for everyone who cares about Ireland. What Yeats wrote of a leader in the Easter uprising (who happened to be a personal enemy) must also be said of us.

He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

The unique characteristics of the Irish landscape are at risk. Only massive changes in policy and practice, quickly embraced, will stave off the worst effects. Here, finally, we may see a silver lining in the clouds that caused the scattering of Ireland's daughters and sons. The 80 million Irish now live all across the globe. They could, if inspired, be a powerful force for change in many nations. They could, if engaged, help protect the Emerald Isle.

Even more important, their engagement could help protect many landscapes, cultures and people—all across the globe. Their motivation may be rooted in a love of their homeland; their work could benefit people everywhere. They could make a contribution that would help all. And that, as the Irish surely know, would be the stuff of poetry and song.