Leading Irish academic joins as key figure in UN climate change group

9 Apr 2018

The UN climate change conference that was held in Paris in 2015. Image: Drop of Light/Shutterstock

An Irish professor will join an illustrious group of researchers as a key member of a leading UN panel discussing climate change.

Now in its sixth assessment cycle, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has revealed that Maynooth University professor Peter Thorne has been appointed as a coordinating lead author at the international body for assessing the science related to climate change.

This appointment is a major achievement for Irish academia as it is now the most senior position an Irish scientist has ever held within the IPCC.

Set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Programme, the IPCC’s role is to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impact and future risks, as well as options for adapting to climate change and mitigating the worst of its consequences.

Thorne is a professor in physical geography at Maynooth University and is director of the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units group (ICARUS).

As part of his new role, he will join Working Group 1, which will focus on the physical science of climate change. He will coordinate and lead the assessment of observational evidence for ongoing climate change across the atmosphere, oceans and ice.

Great Irish contribution

Commenting on his appointment, Thorne said the work of the IPCC is crucial in shaping how the international community approaches the issue of climate change.

“Climate change has always been a feature of our environment, but recent generations have seen unprecedented shifts in the Earth’s temperature and weather patterns due to human activity and, particularly, the burning of fossil fuels. This is a scientific fact that cannot be dismissed or ignored,” he said.

“Even in a worst-case scenario, humanity as a whole will survive climate changes, but now is the time for us to decide what kind of world future generations will call their home, and whether we want humanity to merely survive or thrive.

“The meticulous assessment of all available evidence undertaken by the IPCC will be essential in giving us a grounded scientific basis to form the best possible strategies in mitigating climate change and safeguarding our environment.”

Thorne added that he believes his appointment is a testament to the quality of Irish science as a whole.

“Irish researchers are collectively contributing significantly to our efforts to understand and address the challenges of human-induced climate change,” he said.

Two other researchers of Irish citizenship have been included in the two other working groups, including Dr Aidan Farrell from The University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago, and Patrick-Devine Wright of the University of Exeter.

The UN climate change conference that was held in Paris in 2015. Image: Drop of Light/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic