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Climate scientist warns of threat to coastal villages

Villages along Galway’s coast will have to relocate their centres inland and uphill to avoid being submerged in seawater within a century, according to an Armageddon-style scenario outlined by a local climate scientist.

Bearna and An Spidéal may have to relocate their cores at least one kilometre uphill towards Maigh Cuillin, while Oranmore and Kinvara may need to relocate inland as rising sea levels threaten coastal areas.

The stark warning comes as communities throughout Galway continue to count the cost of flooding associated with Storm Debi last week, and as Galway County Council prepares to adopt its first Climate Action Plan.

The local authority is currently accepting submissions on its draft climate plan and has urged the public to engage and make observations about the plan.

Galway County Councillor Alastair McKinstry (Green Party) said though the draft plan was not ambitious enough, it contained several positive commitments needed to alter people’s mindset towards climate change and the impacts of rising sea levels.

He said the draft plan includes carbon budgets for the first time, which will add to the understanding of the climate problem. And it includes long-term planning for flood prevention in the future.

Cllr McKinstry, a climate scientist at the Irish Centre for High End Computing based at University of Galway, warned modelling suggested sea level rises of between eight and fifteen metres over an unknown time-frame, which would effectively submerge villages like Bearna or Kinvara.

“The worst-case scenario is that we see five metres of sea level rise by 2100, according to the latest scientific papers. The sea will probably come in by about a kilometre or so at that scale. That’s worst case. The best-case scenario is that it takes 2,000 years (to happen).

Caption: The sea wall knocked during Storm Debi near Garraun on the old Dublin Road, Oranmore, last week.

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