Maynooth University Professor to have key role in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sixth assessment report

Sunday, April 8, 2018 - 15:15

Professor Peter Thorne of Maynooth University has been recognised as a leading Irish expert on global climate change with his appointment as a Coordinating Lead Author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as it enters its Sixth Assessment Cycle. This is 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 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the leading international body for assessing the science related to climate change.

Its 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.

A professor in Physical Geography (Climate Change) at Maynooth University and Director of the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units group (ICARUS), Professor Thorne 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.

Commenting on his nomination to join the IPCC Working Group, Professor Peter 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.”

“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.”  

The IPCC’s regular Assessment Cycles provide all levels of international governance a scientific basis to develop climate-related policies. Their findings inform negotiations at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and have played an important role in the development of high profile international agreements and policies aimed at tackling climate change. The most recent assessment cycle directly informed the Paris Agreement, which has been signed by 195 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, making it the most comprehensive international agreement on climate change to date.

Outside of those nominated to the Working Groups, thousands of other experts in climate science contribute to the reports by acting as reviewers. Teams of Review Editors then provide a thorough monitoring mechanism for making sure that review comments are addressed. The final outcomes will be reported in 2021 when all parties to the UNFCCC shall unanimously agree the final summary for policymakers.

President of Maynooth University, Professor Philip Nolan, said the nomination confirmed Maynooth’s world-class reputation in the area of climate change and geography. “Our researchers have made a vital contribution to the global understanding of and response to climate change issues over the last 30 years. The entire Maynooth community commends Peter on this achievement and looks forward to supporting him in his endeavours in the coming years.  He will particularly build on the outstanding legacy of our Emeritus Professor of Geography John Sweeney who was a former member of IPCC panels,” he said.

Professor Thorne notes that: “While being a great personal honour and challenge to be nominated, this nomination also reflects the high quality work undertaken by colleagues within ICARUS at Maynooth University, and also at other Irish Universities and institutes. Irish researchers are collectively contributing significantly to our efforts to understand and address the challenges of human-induced climate change.”

Professor Thorne is a leading voice in his field, regularly acting as an expert commentator in media discussions of climate change and extreme weather in Ireland and abroad, offering detailed historic outlook and offering insight into where the Irish climate sits within a global context.