We want more action on climate change, say York professors

York professors Jack McConnell and Peter Taylor, of the Faculty of Science & Engineering, and Peter Victor, of the Faculty of Environmental Studies, were among 90 signatories to an open letter to the prime minister on climate-change science, published in the National Post April 20. Here is the letter:

Dear Prime Minister:

As climate-science leaders from the academic, public and private sectors across Canada, we wish to convey our views on the current state of knowledge of climate change and to call upon you to provide national leadership in addressing the issue. The scientific views we express are shared by the vast majority of the national and international climate-science community.

We concur with the climate-science assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001, which has also been supported by the Royal Society of Canada and the national academies of science of all G8 countries, as well as those of China, India and Brazil.

We endorse the conclusions of the IPCC assessment that: “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities” and of the 2005 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment that: “Arctic temperatures have risen at almost twice the rate of those in the rest of the world over the past few decades.”

Climate variability and change is a global issue and the international IPCC process for assessment of climate science, with its rigorous scientific peer-review processes, is the appropriate mechanism for assessing what is known and not known about climate science. Many Canadian climate scientists are participating in the preparation of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which will be completed in 2007.

The following points emerge from the assessments and ongoing research by respected Canadian and international researchers:

  • There is increasingly unambiguous evidence of changing climate in Canada and around the world.
  • There will be increasing impacts of climate change on Canada’s natural ecosystems and on our socio-economic activities.
  • Advances in climate science since the 2001 IPCC Assessment have provided more evidence supporting the need for action and development of a strategy for adaptation to projected changes.
  • Canada needs a national climate-change strategy, with continued investments in research to track the rate and nature of changes, understand what is happening, to refine projections of changes induced by anthropogenic release of greenhouse gases and to analyze opportunities and threats presented by these changes.

We have supplied justification and more detail for each of these points in the accompanying documentation (http://www.cfcas.org/whatsnew_e.html). We urge you and your government to develop an effective national strategy to deal with the many important aspects of climate that will affect both Canada and the rest of the world in the near future. We believe that sound policy requires good scientific input. We would be pleased to provide a scientific briefing and further support, clarification and information at any time.

Investment advisor Milesvksy admits he became a homeowner ‘under duress’

Don’t jump into home ownership if a high-yield investment is your primary objective, said the Toronto Star April 20, quoting experts that included Moshe Milevsky, a professor of finance at York’s Schulich School of Business. In strictly financial terms, you might be better off staying in a rental and putting your money in guaranteed bonds for the next 25 years. Rather, think of a house as a commodity. Consider that bricks and mortar may have a dollar value, but you can’t put a price on the pleasures your family may get from living in a house of their own, says Milevsky. He admits he became a homeowner under duress, after his family insisted on having their own home. He managed to resist them for almost a decade, reluctant to pour all their assets into a house. Nevertheless, they made the right decision, he says. The fun his children have in the big backyard of their north Toronto home – and the pleasure he gets watching them enjoy it – are priceless. “And now I go to sleep in my RSP,” he says, chuckling.

Realize, however, that in financial terms buying a house represents a concentrated investment, says Milevsky, unlike a nicely balanced investment portfolio that gives you a hedge against the ups and downs of individual stocks. The housing market, like the stock market, operates in cycles. Milevsky notes prospective buyers should also factor in expenses they don’t have as renters. Milevsky issues one additional warning: home ownership tempts many into “forced consumption” as people launch themselves into improving and beautifying their homes – money they wouldn’t spend as renters. To give potential buyers a point of comparison between renting and buying, Milevsky devised a calculator that figures out your total wealth at various periods over the life of a mortgage – compared to what it would be if you continue renting.  “Ultimately, buying a house is a lifestyle decision,” concludes Milevsky.

Telefilm to appoint Osgoode graduate as new film czar

Telefilm Canada will soon appoint former Torontonian and York alumnus Michael Jenkinson (LLB ‘85) – a brainy entrepreneur who has spent the past 13 years in Hollywood’s hard-knocks production trenches – to become its new feature film executive for English Canada, reported the The Globe and Mail April 20, quoting unnamed sources. While Montreal-based Telefilm would not confirm Jenkinson’s new posting, sources in the tight-knit entertainment community say the Jamaican-born film executive will take on this challenging job in mid-May. Jenkinson, founder and chief executive of Urban Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based company that specializes in the distribution of independent films targeted at the African-American marketplace, has a law degree from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and is a graduate (1993) of the Canadian Film Centre. In the mid-eighties, he worked at the federal Department of Justice in Toronto, before moving to New York to work in finance at Chase Manhattan Bank. In 1993, he was hired as a vice-president for acquisitions and production at Twentieth Century Fox and Fox Searchlight, and was later named vice-president of production.

A realistic look at taxes isn’t as exciting as a tax revolt

The perception that we are slowly being squeezed to death by a ever-growing tax load simply isn’t true, reported the Vancouver Sun April 20. The Sun noted that a consumer tax index developed by the Fraser Institute shows that the taxes paid by the average Canadian family have increased by almost 16 times since 1961, a rate far greater than that for shelter, food or clothing. But Neil Brooks, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto who teaches tax law and policy, looks at the Fraser Institute numbers and comes to a starkly different conclusion. Brooks takes on the Fraser Institute’s accounting in a paper for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a think-tank that plows the other side of the political field. After adjusting the Institute’s consumer tax index for inflation and real increases in income over the period, Brooks concludes the actual increase is somewhere around 45 per cent. As a portion of our total economy, taxes consume only slightly more today than they did in 1975, according to statistics kept by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. So, revolt if you want, but remember, in government as in all consumer goods, there is a large element of getting what you pay for.

Babies dislike baby talk

A recent York University study has a simple message to parents who baby talk to their infants: grow up, reported the Toronto Star April 20. Psychology Professor Maria Legerstee, of York’s Faculty of Arts, found infants between one and three months of age develop more rapidly when adults socialize with them rather than simply respond to their physical actions by cooing, babbling and making facial expressions. Babies recognize their mothers more quickly and prefer to interact with them if the adult is more attuned to the child’s mood and shares in their emotions, particularly positive ones, Legerstee concluded in study co-authored by York PhD student Gabriela Markova. This so-called “shareable feeling” helps the infants develop socially, they found.

Collaborative BScN nursing student volunteers head to Dominican Republic

Nikki McArthur’s first visit to the Dominican Republic won’t be a pleasure trip, reported the Owen Sound Sun Times April 20. McArthur, along with a number of other second-year practical nursing students at the Owen Sound campus of Georgian College, left Wednesday for a nine-day trip to the Caribbean nation. The purpose of the trip is to offer health care to residents in some of the country’s poorest regions. The local contingent is part of a larger group of students and faculty members who are also coming from Georgian’s main campus in Barrie and from York University, which administers the Collaborative BScN degree program offered at Georgian. The trip is an annual one that’s been taking place since 1997.

On air

  • Bob Bain, professor of sports psychology in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, spoke about Toronto Maple Leaf fans’ frustrations on 680 News (CFTR-AM) in Toronto April 19.