Climate Change

What is Climate Change

Climate change or more specifically ‘human-induced climate change’ (also known as global warming) is the change in the Earth’s climate caused by human activities, primarily related to the increase in the gases carbon dioxide and methane in our atmosphere due to our burning of fossil fuels, the destruction of forests and our large amounts of intensively-farmed livestock.

Burren Cattle Drive, The Burren, Co Clare_Web Size



The Effects of Climate Change

  • Rising atmospheric temperatures.
  • Melting of ice sheets and glaciers.
  • Rising sea-level and coastal flooding.
  • Ocean acidification and loss of marine life.
  • Increased strength of storms, monsoons and hurricanes.
  • More flooding in some areas.
  • More drought in some areas.
  • Changes in oceanic currents.
  • Decrease in biodiversity.



Evidence of early human influence on the Burren landscape

The effects of humans on the Earth’s atmosphere are really only evident since the industrial revolution which saw the large-scale burning of coal, followed by the use of oil and gas in the 20th century. However, there is good evidence from 4,000 years ago that the early inhabitants of the Burren were changing the landscape by clearing woods for cattle grazing. We find charcoal and decreases in the amount of tree pollen and increases in the amount of grass pollen from lake deposits at this time. Other evidence indicates soil loss due to erosion. However, because human populations numbers were low at that time the effect on the global atmosphere would have been very minor. That impact has changed as human population numbers have increased dramatically since then.

For thousands of years, Burren farmers have marked the end of summer by herding their cattle onto winterage pastures in the limestone uplands where they spend the winter grazing.



Evidence of past climate change in the landscape of the Burren

The last Ice Age

Just 22,000 years ago the Burren was covered in thick ice sheets which lasted for thousands of years.

Fig.1 Glacial striations at the Flaggy ShoreGlacial striations at the Flaggy Shore

Glacial striations are the scratch marks formed from rocks trapped in thick sheets of ice being dragged over bedrock. The orientation of these scratch marks shows us the direction travelled by the ice.


Fig.2 Glacial erratic at DoolinGlacial erratic at Doolin

Glacial erratics are boulders that have been picked up and carried by ice and then dropped and left behind after the ice has melted.




Evidence of past climate change in the rocks of the Burren

The rocks in the Burren were formed over 300 million years before the first humans evolved on Earth, so any climate change recorded in the rocks here cannot be attributed to human activities. However, what they do show is that the Earth is highly dynamic and will respond to changes, whatever the cause. This does not mean that we can dismiss the impact of human influence on modern climate change, instead it means that the 7 billion humans on Earth now are a hugely significant new and additional influence on climate change.

Stepped Terraces in the Burren

The stepped terraces in the Burren limestone have thin shale layers at the base of each terrace that mark sea-level fluctuations due to a different ice age from 330 million years ago.



What we’re doing to help

At the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark, we work collectively with a large group of local businesses to produce an enjoyable and more sustainable way of life for the region. We introduced a Code of Practice in Sustainable Tourism, which has been adopted by more than 65 businesses around the Burren and Cliffs of Moher . Each business submits a detailed annual report of various aspects of their day to day activities, They lay out an action plan with evidence of how they are acting on improving their impact on the environment and the local community.  Measurements in this report include such aspects as, waste, gas, mileage, waste water, recycling and visitor numbers, to name a few. Having a record of these details gives a clear indication of where each business needs to improve, and where the area needs to improve as a whole.

The 6 pillars of this code are.

Working TogetherWorking Together

We collaborate with all stakeholders to collectively develop the Geopark as a sustainable tourism destination.


A Cared For LandscapeA Cared-For Landscape

We actively participate in conserving our natural and cultural heritage.


A Well-Understood HeritageA Well-Understood Heritage

We offer quality information and interpretation to communicate our stories and the character of our place to guests.


A Vibrant CommunityVibrant Communities

We work to ensure that tourism makes a positive social contribution so that it benefits our community as well as our guests. We aim to make our services available to the widest possible audience.


Strengthened LivelihoodsStrengthened Livelihoods

We contribute to the local economy by maintaining and supporting local employment, by sourcing services and produce locally wherever possible and by engaging with other businesses in promoting our region as a sustainable tourism destination.


Sustainable Environmental ManagementSustainable Environmental Management

We work to an Environmental Action Plan, which includes targets for improvement that are reviewed annually. We have effective systems for monitoring and adequately managing our waste, water, wastewater and energy.