Radboud University


Mark Huijbregts is a dedicated scientist and a professor of Environmental Sciences who hopes his research will contribute to achieving the global climate targets by 2050. In the world of research, where many factors are uncertain, he tries to create a helicopter view based on evidence and facts. “My research helps policymakers reach decisions.”

How do our actions affect global biodiversity? What about new technologies used to generate energy? Or new chemicals that eventually end up in the environment? These are the questions that concern Mark Huijbregts. “You also have to think about where this is happening and who is doing it. All of these factors influence the biodiversity around us.”

Mega data

To get a helicopter view, Huijbregts and his research team are combining hundreds of individual studies that are being conducted on these topics around the world. This isn't big data, it’s mega data. “It’s strength in numbers; it’s quantitative and reproducible research. By combining the studies in a structured way, the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. We can then draw conclusions on a global level: what are the advantages and disadvantages of certain measures or new technologies in a particular area?”

Strong knowledge base

Huijbregts’ research results are not only generating media attention, they are also being used by institutes such as the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and they help policymakers reach decisions. His group also works closely with Unilever by researching the effects of their products on biodiversity. “I see it as my duty to create and maintain a strong knowledge base.”

Climate goals

windmolenparkDoes Huijbregts know how we can achieve the 2050 climate goals? “I wish I had a simple answer, but climate policy is a nuanced thing. What works in the Netherlands may not work on the other side of the world, and vice versa. The goal of my research is to minimise uncertainties and paint a clear picture that policymakers can use to make decisions that work where they are.”

Sneak peek

When asked whether the 2050 climate goals are achievable and whether we can keep global warming below two degrees, he falls silent. “Personally, I think things are moving far too slowly,” he says. “The pandemic has given us a sneak peek of the effects of our actions. But even with society more or less grinding to a halt, we’re not going to meet our climate goals. This tells you how big the job is and that we have to do it together. Shutting down society is far from the ideal approach. We want to be able to live normal lives while also meeting the 2050 climate targets. To do this, we need to start immediately.”

Top priority

Nevertheless, Huijbregts remains optimistic about the future. “The pandemic has taught us that everything is possible if we make it a priority. A vaccine, which usually takes years to develop, was ready in record time. Let's make climate change our next priority.”

Will you help make climate change a top priority? Mark Huijbregts and his research team can use the support, especially now. Donate through this Tikkie or to IBAN NL84 ABNA 0248 6906 55 in the name of 'Stichting Radboud Fonds', stating '307516 sustainability'. Thank you for your contribution!