An Taisce believes that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar needs to urgently clarify recent comments attributed to him (1) regarding the supposed ‘benefits’ of climate change, such as lower winter heating bills and fewer deaths due to cold weather.

The overwhelming international scientific consensus, as expressed via the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that climate change poses profound, far-reaching risks of abrupt, irreversible and catastrophic impacts. Further, the IPCC at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York in September, which Leo Varadkar attended, stated: “There is a growing recognition that climate impacts are hitting harder and sooner than climate assessments indicated even a decade ago”. (2)

“There was no mention at this summit of the so-called positive impacts of climate change, because, insofar as they exist at all, they are infinitesimal and vastly outweighed by the negative impacts”, according to an An Taisce spokesperson. “For our Taoiseach to be talking in terms of a ‘ledger’ where there are more or less equal benefits and downsides to climate breakdown betrays a reckless disregard for science”, the spokesperson added. We very much doubt our Taoiseach, a medical doctor, would feel there are ‘two sides to the ledger’ about the health effects of smoking. Similarly, it is unlikely he believes we should allow anti-vaccine activists to claim ‘two sides to the ledger’ of the benefits of mass vaccination.

Once you go down the road of a-la-carte scientific interpretation, where does it end? The Taoiseach’s extraordinary remarks will undoubtedly be seized upon by climate deniers and delayers, both nationally and around the world, and will help copper-fasten Ireland’s international reputation as a foot-dragger on climate action. Late last week, government ministers were warned in a private briefing (3) that Ireland’s reputation with multinational companies as a good destination for foreign direct investment faces ‘serious consequences’ if the State does not meet international climate change obligations. For Mr Varadkar to react to such a warning by actually doubling down and using the kind of rhetoric of doubt and equivocation employed by special interest lobbyists trying to water down climate action is profoundly disturbing.

Complacency and baseless optimism are no substitute for real, measurable climate actions in line with the best scientific advice. The era of dithering and delay has long passed. Mr Varadkar and his advisors need to ‘get real’ before climate change damages far more than just our international reputation.

Contact: John Gibbons, PRO (087-2332 689)