Over the last 30 years mankind has become more acutely aware of the interactions between human societies and the natural environment in which they operate and upon which they depend. This awareness has been heightened by concerns about resource scarcity, national and international environmental degradation and sustainable development, i.e. the challenge of meeting today's needs without diminishing the capacity of future generations to meet their own.
The pressure on Ireland's environment is more noticable in recent years, than that of many other countries. A number of favourable circumstances, including climatic and demographic factors, have tended to mitigate the potential impacts of the pressures that arose progressively over the latter quarter of the twentieth century. For these reasons, Ireland's environmental quality, overall, remains relatively good in comparison with that of most other European countries. Nevertheless, a range of issues now arises in relation to the present state of the environment in Ireland and there is general consensus that there is little scope for complacency.
These issues can be categorised as relating to:
› climate change and greenhouse gases;
› Air pollution including Acid rain;
› water quality, including eutrophication of waters, and water management;
› waste, including material flows, and waste management;
› built environment including noise, etc;
› wildlife including protection of endangered species;
› sustainable development (which subsumes all issues).
There are many sources of information, both nationally and internationally, ranging nationally from ENFO (Ireland's public information service on environmental), EPA, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and Sustainable Energy Ireland, for instance.
The EPA, which publishes very detailed and extensive data on the environment, should be the starting point for any desktop exploration of environmental matters. See the Education section of their website.
The CSO's relatively small contribution to the overall understanding is to produce Environmental Accounts for Ireland covering Greenhouse gas and Acid Rain Precursor emissions to air. The primary focus being to produce satellite accounts to supplement the existing national income and expenditure accounting system by quantifying some of the environmental factors, not accounted for otherwise.
In addition, the CSO has included a number of environment-related questions in the Quarterly National Household Survey. Topics covered have related to
The Census of Population also includes questions on central heating, year of construction of dwelling, number of cars available to the household, and details about travel to work, school or college.
The statistics available from household surveys in conjunction with the census data can assist in improving our understanding of energy consumption and environmental impacts.