Irish professor appointed to lead international climate change panel

Prof. 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 IPCC is regarded as a 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), Prof. 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, Prof. Thorne said: “The work of the IPCC is crucial in shaping how the international community approaches the issue of climate change.”

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.

“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.

Its findings inform negotiations at the UN 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 final outcomes will be reported in 2021 when all parties to the UNFCCC shall unanimously agree the final summary for policymakers.

Highest recognition

Commenting on the appointment, Science Foundation Ireland director general Mark Ferguson said: “Peter’s appointment as co-ordinating lead author at IPCC is the highest recognition ever received for an Irish academic in this field.

“SFI is working closely with the ICARUS team at Maynooth University and we would like to congratulate Peter on this great success and wish him well in the critical and challenging work ahead.”

Concluding, Prof. Thorne said: “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.