In a Time of Climate Crisis – If climate neutrality is a journey, what is our map?

At a time of climate crisis: the critical role of modelling in climate policymaking

MaREI researcher Dr Hannah Daly at ERI, University College Cork has become a regular writer for a column called “In a time of climate crisis” for the Irish Times. In this week’s column, she discusses if climate neutrality is a journey, what is our map?

I raise many eyebrows when I tell people that I do modelling for a living. “Energy systems modelling,” I clarify after a pause, usually causing those eyes to glaze over.

I like to think of these models as maps. Decarbonisation is a journey: even though we know the destination – climate neutrality – there are unaccountably many pathways to get there.

If we were sailors back in the Age of Exploration, we would not attempt an ocean crossing without a map, which gathered together all the best evidence available – about the tides, weather and geography – to allow us to plan a route, make best use of our skills and resources, track progress, and adjust the plan as the journey evolves.

Similarly, we are not embarking on this journey to climate neutrality without models to help plan the best pathway.

The energy systems model we build in UCC, the TIMES-Ireland Model (not named after this newspaper) takes a “big picture” lens to understand how future energy demands, technologies and low-carbon fuel supply may interact and evolve over the coming decades, to depict different pathways to reducing fossil fuel dependence in line with carbon budgets.

Like maps, models are simplifications of a system, and there is no one perfect model. Other systems models focus on different aspects of decarbonisation such as the power system, transport network, building stock, economic activity and farming practices.

Read the full article here.