The diversity of content at the recent Mary Robinson “Communities Creating Change” Climate Conference was obvious from the well-curated programme. Over two days, information, emotion and frustration were shared by both speakers and audience. A sense of how far into climate breakdown we find ourselves, and how little is being done globally to mitigate against it, pervaded the conference. Young climate activists passionately expressed their views and discontent, holding up conference proceedings for a time. They had the right; after all, they will be the ones holding the fort and slogging through the consequences of climate breakdown well after the rest of us are able to.
Two talks particularly stood out for me. Results of the EPA report “Climate Change in the Irish Mind”, presented by Eimear Cotter, showed a strong belief among Irish people that climate change is happening, with very high levels of trust in scientists as a source of information about climate change. In contrast to this was the frustration expressed by seasoned environmental campaigner Oisin Coghlan that governmental action could be so slow despite evidence of the effects of global heating being repeatedly presented to our political leaders for more than a decade. A heartfelt call for more radical expressions of our discontent with the current level of action on climate breakdown nationally hit the right note.
Events such as the Mary Robinson Climate Conference educate and inspire. Now it remains for us all to translate knowledge and inspiration into meaningful action.
Dr Cathy Burke, a native of Ballycastle, Co Mayo and graduate of UCG, is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Cork University Maternity Hospital. She is a consultant representative with Irish Doctors for the Environment and is chairperson of the Green Group at Cork University Maternity Hospital.
Dr Burke has contributed to the upcoming HSE strategy on healthcare decarbonisation and has worked with the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in drafting their Position Paper on Climate Breakdown. She is part of a working group recently established by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Ireland which aims to reduce the carbon footprint of maternity hospitals and gynaecology units in Ireland. In her spare time she enjoys cycling, hiking and spending time with her family and friends.