Trinity research pivotal in Ireland’s Climate Change Assessment, with heat extremes to become more frequent and severe

Posted on: 25 January 2024

Technological advancements will only deliver short-term benefits if Ireland doesn’t take steps towards transformative change according to the report, which saw contributions from Trinity researchers.

Trinity research pivotal in Ireland’s Climate Change Assessment, with heat extremes to become more frequent and severe

The report is the culmination of over two years of work that examines, over four volumes, how Ireland’s climate is changing, how we can decarbonise our country, how we prepare for climate change and what the benefits are from transitioning to a low carbon society. 

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin’s Schools of Natural Sciences and Engineering worked on two volumes of the report and a summary document for policymakers. 

In Vol 1 the team from the School of Natural Sciences focused on Ireland’s climate in a changing world, including observed changes in Ireland’s past climate, and future climate projections under different greenhouse gas emission pathways. 

In Vol 4 the team based in the School of Engineering examined what transformative change would look like in the built environment. This research examined how better spatial planning and transforming our transport systems could realise a decrease in emissions and an overall increase in wellbeing. 

Prof. Jennifer McElwain, Professor of Botany, and a lead author on Vol 1, ‘Ireland in a Changing World,’ said: “The future climate of Ireland is in our collective hands. In Volume 1 of the ICCA report we show that heat extremes in Ireland will become more frequent and more severe in the future with further warming.”

Dr Agnieszka Stefaniec, a Research Fellow and an author on Volume 4, emphasised the need for fairness and balance in climate action. She said: “Equity in climate policy is necessary and effective in curbing emissions while also enhancing wellbeing, particularly for the vulnerable. To illustrate, a transformative approach to space entails that redesign interventions serve both mitigation targets and the communities.”

Prof. Brian Caulfield, Professor in Transportation and a lead author on Vol 4, ‘Realising the Benefits of Transition and Transformation,’ said: “Our research shows that long-term sustained transformative change is required in order to realise our carbon reduction ambitions. The work also shows that technological fixes to our society may yield short term benefits but to reach the daunting targets of Net-Zero, policymaking and planning needs to move towards systematic transformative change.” 

Prof. Jane Stout, Professor of Ecology and Vice President for Biodiversity and Climate Action at Trinity, said: “Given the speed and scale of change that we are already experiencing, the recommendations in this report are very welcome. Coherent policy and action, across sectors and society, is required to reach carbon neutrality and slow climate change this century, and to adapt to Ireland's future climate. 

“At Trinity, we are committing to equipping students with the skills and competencies they will need to thrive in this changed world, and to do engaged research, and translate findings to inform policy and practice. In addition, we are adapting our own operations to reduce emissions and become nature positive, for the health of the planet and of our whole college community.”

The full report can be read on the Environmental Protection Agency website

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