THE CHALLENGES WE FACE in

Climate science

Biodiversity

Just societal transition

Climate mitigation

Climate adaptation

Climate Science 

Improved monitoring and analysis of historical records

Better understanding of changes in the deep past 

Quantification of uncertainty in projections

Elucidating the role of variability

Both adaptation and mitigation can only be effective if there is a robust understanding of the climate system and its changes across the island of Ireland at both regional and local scales. The network will improve monitoring capabilities and renew efforts to recover and share records of already observed changes. These data will then be analysed to underpin action by government, industry and society.

There is a need to better identify and exploit available palaeo climate information from across the island of Ireland. Of key interest are signals related to prior high sea level stands in previous interglacials and the Mid-Pleistocene Warm Period. We know that sea-level rise is a multi-millennial process and the network will seek to understand what the long-term committed change is so that we can adapt appropriately across a range of timescales.

The network can undertake substantially improved modelling of past and possible future climates using Earth System Models such as EC-EARTH and regional models. To ensure optimal decision making under uncertainty
it is essential that we fully sample the rangeof possible future states arising both from choice of emissions pathways moving forwards (emissions scenarios) and model uncertainty. This requires developing large ensembles and use of statistical emulators.

While the long-term climate trajectory is determined by external forcings, our short-term trajectory is set by internal climate variability. The network will improve understanding of the role of the North Atlantic and its variability to inform planning on seasonal to decadal timescales. This will require a combination of long-term monitoring and modelling work.

Climate Mitigation

Intelligent efficiency

Electric heating and transport

Renewable energy

 

Negative emissions solutions  

Field to fork
 

Significant reductions in emissions can be achieved by improving the efficiency of processes associated with manufacturing, warming our homes and moving people and goods. The network

will focus research on the urgent need for deep retrofitting of buildings, more efficient transportation systems and lean manufacturing processes including the raw materials required to accomplish these goals.

The network will focus on addressing the challenges associated with increased electric vehicle deployment and charging, replacing oil and solid fuel heating with heat-pumps in buildings and ensuring the increased electricity usage from data centres will be delivered with zero emissions.

Ireland has a huge untapped off-shore wind energy resource and a target to achieve 70% renewable share of electricity
by 2030. The network will focus on the role of interconnection, batteries, hydrogen and smart grids and explore and develop solutions for
the monitoring and mitigation of biodiversity impacts of installations. Renewable gaseous fuels including biogas, biomethane and hydrogen have great potential for mitigation in key sectors such as agriculture, food and beverage and freight transport. The network will focus on technologies such as anaerobic digestion, gasification, pyrolysis and power to gas systems and sustainable solutions that fit into circular bioeconomy processes and consider multiple ecosystem services (water quality, pollination services, biodiversity support). Renewable liquid fuels including hydrotreated vegetable oil and biokerosene represent a key opportunity for key sectors including aviation, shipping and long distance haulage. Geothermal energy for heating/cooling and possibly for electricity generation can play an important role in meeting Ireland’s energy and GHG reduction needs.

Negative emissions solutions form an essential part of the solution space to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Research will focus on carbon capture and storage technologies both geologically and through changing agricultural practices, direct air capture technologies and nature-based solutions including bog rewetting, soil organic carbon, forestry, permanent pasture and blue carbon.

Field to fork. Agriculture, land use and land use management provide very distinct opportunities and challenges. The network will focus on technical and nature-based solutions to belching cattle, slurry storage, production
of grains, biofertiliser, operation of dairies, distilleries, and biorefineries, in addition to linking natural capital (incl. biodiversity) to the services provided (pollination for better quality food products, water quality, etc.).

Climate Adaptation

Modelling uncertainty

Quantifying and improving resilience of infrastructure

Modelling and forecasting of storm surges

Development of (Marine, Surface, Airborne) Service and SAR Robotics technology

Improve flood risk assessment and management

Adapting to changes in critical ecosystem services

Modelling uncertainty is a key focus of the network planned research activity - this includes uncertainty regarding the exposure to and impacts of climate change, but also the vulnerability and instigating and propagating
a robust framework for decision making under uncertainty in our adaptation planning work nationally. A key part of this will be better understanding of how society understands and reacts to uncertainty.

 

Quantifying and improving resilience of infrastructure to climate change including decision support schemes for structural systems and cheaper and quicker means to identify hazards to infrastructure. 

Modelling and forecasting of storm surges requires increasing the earth, ocean, and atmosphere observations (including from MACE Head), remote observations and In-situ observations.

Development of (Marine, Surface, Airborne) Service and SAR Robotics technology capability for operations in more severe weather conditions.

Improve flood risk assessment and management due to climate change including automated early flood warning systems and inland and coastal flood management using nature-based solutions.

Adapting to changes in critical ecosystem services provided by plant and animal populations due to altered weather patterns and climate, including for food production, parasite regulation, nutrient cycling and cultural services.

 

Biodiversity

Prevent loss of biodiversity

 

Understand and protect natural capital and ecosystem services

Engineer resilience into ecosystems

Restore degraded ecosystems

A wide range of conservation measures have been used to mitigate against drivers of biodiversity loss with mixed success. The network will review conservation interventions and their outcomes, as well as the social processes that hindered/ supported their success, and so provide the evidence base to help restore degraded ecosystems and put in place effective management and nature-based solutions. In the process we will identify gaps in our evidence base that can be targeted with resources through the network.

 

Research is required to fully understand the links between biodiversity, ecosystem services, and the benefits provided to different sectors of society so that we can better manage human activities to the benefit of our overall prosperity and well-being under climate change. The network will work with the Irish Forum on Natural Capital to coordinate research to enable the efficient and effective combination of multiple disciplines needed to improve understanding and decision-support by the diverse actors in this space.

Ecological resilience is the capacity of systems to absorb, adapt to and recover from perturbations of all kinds. Resilience is often reduced in degraded ecosystems and further damage can cause irreversible declines.
The network will focus on quantifying and understanding the fundamental processes that underpin resilience and establishing management interventions that promote resilient systems and are accepted by the relevant stakeholders.

Many ecosystems have been degraded beyond the capacity of the system to repair itself in a time frame which will reinstate critical ecosystem services. Active restoration techniques are needed to re-establish lost species, functions and structure. The network will address in- demand challenges such as the optimal goals, locations and techniques for ecosystem restoration.

Just Societal Transition

Societal engagement on climate and biodiversity action

Societal capacity and infrastructure

 

Deep institutional innovation

 

Just Transition  

Increasing public literacy and science communication on climate and biodiversity

The network will undertake transdisciplinary research with citizens and communities to co-develop new deliberative methods for engaging citizens in climate and biodiversity action exploring topics including distributive, procedural and restorative climate justice.

 

The network will undertake research on how response capacity and the capacity for transformation are built and developed within communities, including a focus on understanding social processes and actors including innovation intermediaries, political leaders, local champions, culture and leadership.

The network will focus on a critique and reimagining of the major social institutions in society – economics, democracy, religion, technology, gender and higher education – and the development of principles, visions and imaginaries for guiding how the climate and biodiversity crises can be addressed.

The network will explore the many dimensions of what constitutes a just transition, including distributive, procedural and restorative justice, avoiding unequally distributed costs and outcomes from the restructuring of the relevant industries and top- down and bottom-up approaches for including and engaging with workers and communities at an early stage of long term planning.

The network will have a strong focus on engaging with citizens and communities in addition to engaging with the business and policy communities. In addition to outreach activities and translating the research findings into accessible insights, the engagement
will focus on conversations rather than presentations and dialogue rather than lectures, i.e. knowledge exchange.