EPA Climate Change lecture- A Time for Giant Steps- The Scientific Perspective

Date released: Feb 25 2013

The EPA climate change lecture series continues on Wednesday next with a lecture entitled Giant Steps - the Scientific Perspective. This lecture will be delivered by Rik Leemans, chief scientist of the Earth Systems Sciences Partnership and Professor at Wageningen University. This lecture is the first in a series of “Giant Steps” lectures to coincide with the Irish Presidency of the Council of European Union.

Commenting on the lecture Laura Burke, EPA Director General, said:

“Ireland’s presidency of the EU comes at a time when world governments have a renewed focus on the development of a global agreement to enhance actions on climate change by 2015.  There are also major initiatives underway by businesses, community groups and institutions to address this challenge. Professor Leemans will outline the messages from science and the extent of the challenges which need to be addressed.  His lecture will review the options - or Giant Steps - that are needed to address these changes from a scientific perspective.”

Professor Leemans will review the messages coming from Earth systems science which include those from studies of land, ocean, and atmospheric systems as well as the social and economic drivers of change in these systems. Human induced changes to these systems are shifting the Earth to a new state which has never been experienced before. The changes are accelerating with climate change being one of the central drivers of this change.

Ms Burke continued:

“A stable climate is central to human social and economic development. We are now moving to an era in which that stability can no longer be assumed.  This requires a new perspective on how we manage our resources and ensure that the essential Earth systems that have allowed us to prosper are maintained.”

As well as coinciding with the Irish Presidency, this lecture is a key outreach event in association with the Science Foundation Ireland Joint Programming Conference 2013. Future lectures in this series will aim to focus of global policy development and responses by key stakeholders.

Date: Wednesday, 27 Feb. 2013
Time: 6.30 pm - to 8.30 pm
Venue: Round Room, the Mansion House, Dawson Street, Dublin 2.


Further information: Niamh Hatchell/ Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie
Notes to Editors:

Professor Rik Leemans heads the Environmental Systems Analysis and Earth System Science groups of Wageningen University.

His active participation in several (inter)national committees concerned with various aspects of global change helps to define the international research agenda. For example, he chaired the Earth System Science Partnership (www.ESSP.org), an alliance of all major international global change programmes, and the Responses Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Recently, he helped to develop the new international research program ‘Future Earth: Research for Global Sustainability’ .

His research involves several national and international multi-disciplinary projects in which integrated assessment models for global biodiversity and local/regional ecosystem vulnerability are developed and applied. He executes research world-wide and actively involves young scientists from developing countries in his projects He has proven capabilities to stimulate and manage individual researchers, research groups and (inter)national projects and assessments towards excellence.

During the nineties (1992-2003) he was a senior scientist of the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in Bilthoven. Here, he directed the development of integrated modelling approaches for the biosphere. His work with the IMAGE model strongly contributed to the different international science assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UNEP’s Global Environmental Outlook and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

His early studies at Uppsala University (Sweden) emphasized the successional dynamics and structure of boreal forests. His subsequent research position at the International Institute of Applied System Analyses (IIASA, Austria) focused on boreal forest models. Since then his research has excelled into modelling global land-cover patterns and land-use change and using these models in state-of-the-art integrated assessments. His main research interests concern vegetation structure and dynamics, land use and cover change, biogeochemical cycles, biodiversity, ecosystem services and sustainable development. Over the last decade he has become one of the world leaders in developing and integrating innovative natural and social science knowledge to tackle major policy-relevant Earth System questions with inter- and transdisciplinary approaches.

Professor Leemans has published many papers on a wide range of topics. These include forest dynamics, large-scale vegetation and crop distribution, global environmental databases, terrestrial C cycle and the importance of feedback processes, the incorporation of land-use change and other human dimensions into Earth system models, biodiversity, integrated assessment tools and, more recently, potential mitigation and adaptation options and strategies for environmental change. He is a member of several editorial boards and editor-in-chief of the international journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (Elsevier).