Multidisciplinary symposium explores climate change and environmental issues

Climage change poster that states this is innovation. One day sympoium on climate change and environmental issues titled Everything Under the SunA one-day symposium at York University will explore climate change and environment issues from a variety of perspectives.

The symposium, Everything Under the Sun: York’s Engagement in Vital Environment and Climate Change Issues, will take place Thursday, Nov. 17, from 9:30 to 3pm, in the Founders Assembly Hall, 152 Founders College, Keele campus. It is sponsored by the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation. All are welcome, but organizers request that those interested in attending the symposium should submit their RSVP here:

The first in a series of events bringing together York University researchers from diverse fields with common interests, the symposium proceedings may translate into larger research initiatives, both collaborative and individual.

Each speaker will give a 15-minute presentation that will be followed by a five-minute Q&A. The morning session will be chaired by Glendon Professor Christina Clark-Kazak and Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Carys Craig. The afternoon session will be chaired by Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) political science Professor Sandra Whitworth. Opening remarks will be delivered by Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) Dean Noël Sturgeon.

William Colgan, professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering, will deliver the first presentation of the day. The impact of climate change on Earth’s cryosphere is striking and Colgan will speak about how the Greenland Ice Sheet is presently shedding ice at more than 8000 tonnes per second year-round. All around Greenland, glaciers are accelerating their iceberg discharge and meltwater runoff to the ocean is reaching further inland. He will also speak about long forgotten military bases, which were carved into the ice sheet during the Cold War, are now posed for exposure at the ice sheet surface and the disastrous effects on the world if this rate of melting continues to escalate.

Climate change and industrial disasters will be the focus of a presentation by Ali Asgary, professor in the School of Administrative Studies, LA&PS. While the links between the frequency and magnitude of climate-related natural disasters and the climate change have become clear and more evident in recent years, the links between the climate change and industrial accidents and disasters have not been studies and understood very well. Asgary’s presentation will examine the future trends of industrial disasters that may be directly, through climate variables, or indirectly through other natural disasters linked to the climate change.

FES Professor Rod MacRae’s research focuses on creating a national food agriculture policy for Canada and the set of coherent and comprehensive programs required to support such a policy. MacRae will speak about the food system as a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale, a reality poorly recognized by most decision makers. He will explore the untapped potential of the food system to contribute significantly to Greenhouse gas reductions and to build resilience in the face of climate threats.

Research based on laser remote sensing of atmospheres has been carried out at York University since 1968. The LIDAR (light detection and ranging) systems have been installed in laboratories, ground vehicles, aircraft, icebreaker ships, and spacecraft. Lassonde Professor James Whiteway will discuss field campaigns that have been carried out to study air quality and climate on Earth, and to discover the basic composition and processes in the atmosphere of Mars.

Sea ice in the Arctic is strongly shrinking. However, easy interpretation of the rapidity and causes of the changing conditions are complicated by the fact that the ice moves and deforms, affecting its thickness. However, ice thickness is difficult to observe. Lassonde researcher Alec Casey will discuss innovative, in-situ, airborne and satellite methods to observe sea ice thickness and show results from some key regions of the Arctic, and demonstrate the need for close collaboration between geophysicists, atmospheric scientists, engineers and biologists.

FES Professor Mark Winfield will examine the status of current federal and provincial policy commitments and strategies with respect to reductions in Greenhouse Gas emissions in Canada. The key opportunities and barriers to the development of a coherent national strategy will be identified and highlighted. Winfield’s presentation will identify potential pathways forward for the federal government and leading provinces, and assess the prospects for success.

The energy sector contributes to more than 80 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change requires important changes in relationships between technology and communities. However, there is growing concern that lack of diversity in the workforce is a barrier to discourse and innovation of energy in communities. For example, where documented, women often make up less than 20 per cent of an energy sector workforce. FES Professor Christina Hoicka, the PowerStream Chair in Sustainable Energy Economics, will talk about how to go about finding emerging and established women scholars in energy research topics in order to develop a network for research collaboration.

Lakes in permafrost landscapes are experiencing rapid changes in ecosystem structure and function in response to permafrost thaw. In order to understand the trajectories of ecosystem change driven by thawing permafrost, LA&Ps geography Professor Jennifer Korosi will discuss how a long-term perspective that spans decades to millennia is required to provide necessary context. She will explore how lake sediment cores can be effective for characterizing spatial variability in lake ecosystem change related to permafrost thaw in northern environments.

Librarian William Denten will explore Anthropocene librarianship and making art. Specifically, Denten will show how GHG.EARTH is a sonification of the most recent atmospheric CO₂ reading at Mauna Loa in Hawaii at the observatory run by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. GHG.EARTH is meant as background, ambient music, to be played at a low volume while one does other things. The next day the sound will be a little different. The day after that, a little different again.

There are many techniques to measure the emission of pollutants, aerosols and greenhouse gasses from various sources and each technique has strengths and weaknesses, often balancing cost against uncertainty. Lassonde Professor Mark Gordon will discuss various approaches with examples including deposition and emission of aerosols and volatile organic compounds to and from a forest; emission and mixing of aerosols and CO2 from vehicles on highways; and pollutants and greenhouse gasses emitted from oil sands production facilities.

Everything Under the Sun will conclude with a panel by York Associate Vice-Presidents of Research Sushanta Mitra and Celia Haig-Brown. Panellists will be Lassonde Professor Sunil Bisnath, FES adjunct Professor Kaz Higuchi,  Lassonde Professor Usman Khan, Lassonde Professor Spiros Pagiatakis and Lassonde Professor Peter Taylor.

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