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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
'Chronic' climate change warning
County Down coast lashed by waves
More violent storms are predicted in report
Climate change in Northern Ireland is likely to be chronic, a government report has warned.

According to the report published on Tuesday, the weather is going to become warmer and wetter over the next 80 years.

It predicts winters will become more violent with severe storms and a lot more rain.

The report was commissioned by the government from a group of scientists and warns of the economic and social consequences.

Many coastlines are under threat from erosion
Sea levels cold rise by up to two feet
These range from more disruption of ferry services to structural damage and flooding.

An earlier report predicted that temperature would rise by just over two degrees but that figure has already been overtaken by new scientific findings.

"The United Kingdom Programme for Climatic Change has produced new scenarios," said Professor Ian Montgomery of Queen's University in Belfast, co-author of the latest report.

"Those suggest we're looking at something like a five degree rise in temperature over the next 80 years."

Sea levels

Scientists have also revised the expected increase in sea level. It is predicted to rise by two feet over that period.

The report has also looked at other consequences of climate change.

It warns that agriculture in the west of Northern Ireland will be marginalised - effectively it will all but stop.

And there is more bad news for fisherman with predictions that some species of fish will all but disappear from our coasts.

Flooding in Newry, County Down
Recent flooding following heavy rain
Sea and air links are expected to be disrupted much more by weather which will erode coasts and damage buildings.

Already seasons have changed dramatically. The proof is in the crops grown today with maize now a familiar harvest.

Trevor Gilliland, a scientist with the Department of Agriculture, revealed it could not have happened just a few years ago.

Speaking on Radio Ulster on Tuesday, he said: "Climatically speaking, we are very dependent on mild autumns and mild springs and that is what we put down to the success of this crop in recent years."

Cases of insect borne disease including malaria will become more frequent but it is not thought it will become indigenous to Northern Ireland.

This report is the first official recognition of how climate change will affect the province and it is a lot worse than many had imagined.

There are also worrying signs that the report may have even underestimated just how bad things could be in the future.

BBC NI's Mike McKimm reports
"Weather here is going to be warmer and wetter over the next 80 years"
BBC NI's Milke McKimm:
"The drainage system is already at breaking point"
See also:

05 Apr 00 | Scotland
Cash boosts coastal erosion fight
08 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
Coastal defences 'harming wildlife'
06 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Coastal erosion: The first UK map
15 Apr 02 | Northern Ireland
NI climate change risks outlined
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