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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 March 2006, 11:55 GMT
Climate change 'will affect NI'
Smoking chimney
The WWF wants the government to do more to cut emissions
Northern Ireland could face one of the worst storm threats in Europe, according to a report.

The World Wildlife Fund predicted the number of winter storms in the UK could rise by up to 25% over a 30-year period, if emissions are not reduced.

It said low-lying coastal areas such as the Ards peninsula, Belfast Lough and the Foyle estuary could be hardest hit.

Fruit producers such as Armagh's apple growers could also suffer, it claimed.

The Stormy Europe report suggested climate change could mean 10 extra storms between 2071 and 2100. It said the UK would be the worst affected in Europe, with wind speeds rising between 8-16%.

Malachy Campbell, WWF Northern Ireland, conceded there were "uncertainties" with any long-term prediction, but pointed out the report had been produced from scientific research.

"This report is yet more evidence of the reality of climate change and its potentially serious consequences for us," he said.

"However, there seems to be a reluctance on the part of our government to really tackle climate change and its potential impacts," he added.

"The Northern Ireland Administration has so far failed to produce any long-term vision on how we reduce emissions and move from being an overly fossil fuel reliant economy to one which maximises our substantial renewable energy potential."

The report indicated that fruit producers throughout Europe, including Armagh's apple growers, could be badly hit by climate changes.

Disease spread

It said this was because extreme and unseasonal fluctuations in temperature, particularly unseasonable frosts affect fruit producers.

It said it was also likely that the cold season would shorten, cutting down the number of days below freezing by up to 120 days per year across Europe by the end of the 21st century.

Apples need a certain amount of cold to complete their development.

The report also predicted that seasonal temperature change could have severe affects on the farming industry.

Additionally, it said pests and diseases could have better chances of surviving warmer winters and could spread more rapidly during warmer springs.

Mr Campbell said: "The only way we can explain the severe rise in temperature over the last 20, 30, 40 years especially, is if we include man made emissions."

The WWF's report looked at three areas to compare European countries - the increase in severe winter storms, the increase in the number of days with extremely high wind speeds and the increase in maximum wind speeds.

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