2016 Press Releases

UCC climate change experts

1 Dec 2015
UCC experts explore why it is so hard for us to react to climate change

How are our birds and dolphins being affected by climate change? How can we help our farmers lessen the effects of our wet climate on their herds? These are just some of the questions that UCC experts can answer.

The experts at our Environmental Research Institute (ERI) deal with areas such as:

  • The opportunities arising out of global change
  • Using financial incentives to get people to invest in low carbon technologies
  • How small investments in low carbon technologies can help wider community ‘buy-in’ to changes needed
  • The sociological aspect – what don’t people get? Or maybe what don’t environmental campaigners get?!


In June 2015, the Environmental Research Institute secured Observer Status for UCC in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the first Irish third level institution to do so. UCC has a team of delegates going to COP21 led by Prof Brian Ó Gallachoir. His research team is organising a side event on Dec 3rd entitled Equitable Decarbonisation of the Global Energy System where they will present results of research carried out on an equitable approach to meeting the 2 degree cap on human induced global warming.   Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice will speak about climate justice at the UCC event.

For more information contact Ruth Mc Donnell, Research Information Officer, UCC Office of Marketing and Communications   Mob 086-0468950





The COP21 summit offers a truly historic opportunity for a global energy revolution. There is some cause for optimism that COP21 might deliver more results that previous COP meeting. Recent evidence of changes happening on the ground around the world is striking. In the year 2014, energy related greenhouse gas emissions did not increase, despite a 3% growth in economic activity. Also in 2014, nearly half of all the additional new installed electricity generating capacity came from renewable energy i.e. more additional power coming from wind energy, hydro power and solar energy than from coal or natural gas. This was led by growth in China, USA, Japan and Germany. The UN has now received pledges (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) from 168 countries around the world for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. This is unprecedented being the first time that so many countries have declared what their own specific ambition is for a low carbon future and how they plan to deliver on it. It provides a much stronger political basis for the two weeks of negotiations that any previous climate change event.

To discuss further please contact

Professor Brian Ó Gallachóir, Professor of Energy Policy and Modelling at the Environmental Research Institute, UCC and leader of UCC’s delegation to COP-21

Contact details:  Email: b.ogallachoir@ucc.ie



Analysis by UCC's Environmental Research Institute suggests there's no silver bullet in Ireland's energy transition to a low carbon future. Transport and heating represent 80% of our energy end-use in Ireland. We have a legacy of poorly insulated buildings and a dispersed population which results in higher emissions per person than the EU average. However, there are significant economic opportunities associated with the energy transition, opportunities that will generate economic activity and provide employment.  Some of the options include building insulation, intelligent efficiency solutions for industry, integrating variable wind (and solar) into our power systems, production  of biogas and upgrading it for injection into the existing gas network etc. There is clearly a careful balance to be struck between harnessing the opportunities associated with renewable energy  and avoiding significant increases in our energy bills by deploying technologies at the right time when they are not too costly.  

To discuss further please contact

Professor Brian Ó Gallachóir, Professor of Energy Policy and Modelling at the Environmental Research Institute, UCC and leader of UCC’s delegation to COP-21

Contact details: Email: b.ogallachoir@ucc.ie



Dr Fionn Rogan is looking at the opportunities for Ireland to develop technologies (from idea to reality) that will help lessen the adverse impact of climate change. Countries like Denmark have successfully developed their own technologies in areas like wind energy and are now in a position to export that expertise.  Dr Rogan analyses what policies are needed to be put in place by government and other agencies to encourage the development and maturing of technology sectors that will help us deal with climate change issues.  An example of a niche technology currently being developed comes from the Irish agriculture sector, which has a 33% share of Ireland's overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Despite having such a large share of Ireland's GHG emissions, Ireland's agriculture sector is known internationally for having one of the lowest carbon footprints per tonne of output. The reason for the low carbon intensity of Irish agriculture is that Irish cows are predominantly fed on grass, unlike other countries where cattle farming is indoors and relies predominantly on animal feed. Ireland grows grass well, but the reliance on outdoor farming means the Irish agriculture sector is more vulnerable than other countries to weather variability. Therefore, to adapt to such variability in weather, Irish researchers are developing smart technologies (which combine satellite readings with on-the-ground farm planning) that can help Irish farmers better manage their herds and farms, and better adapt to climate change.

To discuss further please contact

Dr Fionn Rogan, School of Engineering and Environmental Research Institute

Contact details: Email: f.rogan@ucc.ie






Steadily rising water temperatures, changing currents, rising sea levels and increased ocean acidity are having severe cumulative impacts on the world’s marine vertebrates at all locations and depths according to Dr Tom Reed of the Environmental Research Institute at UCC.  Dr Reed is part of an international team that compiled the findings of over a hundred research articles on marine vertebrates (including marine mammals like whales and dolphins, seabirds, fish and marine turtles) from across the globe. While some species may stand to benefit from climate change, others will clearly suffer and future impacts for these ‘losers’ are likely to intensify unless global emissions are drastically reduced soon. The current pace of change if sustained will outstrip the capacity of animals to adapt, particularly longer lived species. Dr Reed’s findings are published this month in a review paper in Science, as part of a special issue on climate change and the health of the world’s oceans. 

To discuss further please contact

Dr Tom Reed, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Environmental Research Institute, UCC.   

Contact details: Email: treed@ucc.ie



Ireland’s climate is changing and these changes are expected to continue and intensify into the future resulting in increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, changes in precipitation patterns and increases in the intensity of extreme weather events.  Regardless of our on-going attempts to reduce the causes of climate change through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, climate change impacts are now inevitable.  As a result, we must now plan for adaptation to the adverse impacts of on-going and future climate changes. Dr Barry O’Dwyer specialises in climate change adaptation and his research involves the development of decision support mechanisms to help Ireland’s local and sectoral decision-makers in planning for Ireland’s future climate.

To discuss further please contact

Dr Barry O’Dwyer or Jeremy Gault, MaREI, Environmental Research Institute

Contact details: Email: B.odwyer@ucc.ie



Work has shown the effects of past, present and future sea-level changes and also of wave and storminess patterns for many coastal environments. Most recently, the research has been applied to developing rapid response defence techniques (Quick Defence Measures) for coastal communities, e.g., seaside towns along Ireland’s Atlantic coasts threatened by storm destruction, as experienced in the storms of 2013/14. These studies of physical environmental changes have been linked to helping communicate to people the implications of climate and wider environmental changes on the Coastal Zone.  This is now being done by researchers in UCC at the grass root, community level, through to the development of practical policy and management approaches to such changes for Local and National International government use. 

To discuss further please contact

Prof Robert Devoy, Dept of Geography and MaREI, Environmental Research Institute

Contact details  Email: r.devoy@ucc.ie






Climate change is a common problem of global inequity between free-riders who have dumped waste gases into the global atmospheric commons benefiting from industrial development, and those who will face costs for damage they did not, do not, and are unlikely to create in the future. Green finance is required to invest in the order of 5.2% GDP to lessen climate change with renewable energy technologies, infrastructure development and consumer response. But what is a fair method of paying for climate change mitigation from a justice, technology and financial perspective - who should pay and how much?

To discuss further please contact

James Glynn, School of Engineering and Environmental Research Institute

Contact details:  Email James.glynn@umail.ucc.ie



The problem is not so much that we don’t have enough fossil fuel resources – it’s more that if all the energy companies were to extract their reserves that the world’s temperature would rise by 4% making the world uninhabitable for humans according to accounting and finance expert Dr Celine McInerney.  She has been researching how you move from reliance on fossil fuel to renewables in the areas of heat, energy and transport. She also has been looking at Company Valuations and says that many utility companies are overvalued at the moment working on the assumption that there will be no policy intervention to increase the cost of fossil fuels.

To discuss further please contact

Dr Celine McInerney, School of Accounting, Finance and Information Systems and Environmental Research Institute        

Contact details  Email: C.McInerney@ucc.ie



Climate change is likely to exacerbate the risk of flooding through a combination of sea level rise and more extreme weather events. While economic development generally means more resources are available to cope with extreme weather events, large scale urban flooding in the past does not appear to have resulted in much adaptation, in the sense of relocating away from the most risky locations. This resistance to change, combined with development trends that are increasing exposure, could result in the costs of future flooding being much larger than anticipated.  Dr McDermott has recently been awarded funding from the EPA for a research project on climate impacts and adaptation in Ireland. He has a forthcoming book on the “Economics of Climate Resilient Development” to be published by Edward Elgar in 2016.

To discuss further please contact

Dr Tom McDermott, School of Economics and Environmental Research Institute

Contact details:    Email thomas.mcdermott@ucc.ie     Fluent in Irish



Joe Curtin is working on a project aimed at identifying socially inclusive financial incentives to mobilise citizens and communities as proactive investors in low carbon technologies. He believes that social acceptance is a vital pre-requisite for low-carbon transition – it’s about people and communities, not just gadgets and gizmos. His other main research interest at the moment is focused on climate-smart agriculture. Joe Curtin is a Member of the newly established National Climate Change Advisory Council.

To discuss further please contact

Joe Curtin, School of Accounting, Finance and Information Systems, Environmental Research Institute and IIEA          

Contact details:    Email joseph.curtin@ucc.ie






In 2006, Clare Watson began to wonder why the world’s response to climate change has been so lacklustre – why do people just not seem to get it? Thus began a quest for understanding exploring how the vagaries of the human mind affect our response to climate change and to climate change messages. The mental adventure has left her thinking that, maybe, environmentalists and climate campaigners are the ones who don’t quite get it. Click HERE for her blogs.

Clare is now a PhD student based in the Environmental Research Institute in UCC, straddling the departments of energy engineering, and sociology working on an EPA funded project called ‘Climate Change, Behaviour and Community Response’.

To discuss further please contact

Clare Watson    Email: clarewatson22@gmail.com



The call to take responsibility for climate change is now a well-established theme, but for us ordinary citizens in our communities the question is “how”?   Global summits as political and media events can provide a fleeting focus on issues that may concern us, but can be difficult to connect with the day-to-day challenges of life.  Equally, it is a very short journey from the idea that “something must be done”, to the resignation that “there is nothing we can do”.  All across Ireland, citizens, groups and organisations are involved in practical initiatives and community projects as a response to the challenge of climate change.  “Retrofit now!” or “Consume less!” are less media ready messages. Dr Ger Mullally is currently involved in a project on the role of citizens and communities in transforming the energy system and climate mitigation

To discuss further please contact

Dr Gerard Mullally, Department of Sociology and Environmental Research Institute

Contact details:   Email  G.mullally@ucc.ie




The Environmental Research Institute (ERI) is one of Ireland’s leading climate change research centres that has a specific focus on finding solutions to human-induced climate change. The ERI works to achieve impact on addressing climate change at both national and regional level in Ireland;  their research teams are currently assisting the Irish Government in negotiations with the EU regarding Ireland’s 2030 targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction and at regional level they are conducting a series Regional Climate Adaptation Seminars to help local authorities plan for ongoing and future climate changes using in-house tools. Principal Investigators at the Institute currently chair and/or are members of a number of national and international advisory bodies related to climate change e.g. the recently established National Expert Advisory Council on Climate Change, Royal Irish Academy Climate Change Committee, Irish Environmental Protection Agency Advisory Board along with a number of International Energy Agency working groups.


If you would like to learn more about climate change research at ERI please contact Institute Manager Dr Paul Bolger at 085-1653141 or visit our website at http://eri.ucc.ie




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