Climate change research underway at York

New research at York University will quantify the link between emissions and air pollution levels at particular sites, and examine the air quality changes that Canadians are likely to experience in the next 50 years.

The projects, led by York Professors Jochen Rudolph and John McConnell, are being funded with $300,000 from the Canadian Foundation for Climate & Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS). The awards are part of $5.5 million in the foundation’s most recent round of investment aimed at increasing knowledge and training in air quality, extreme weather, climate sciences and marine environmental prediction.

One of the main challenges in developing effective and cost-efficient strategies to mitigate air pollution is the difficulty of establishing quantitative relations between emissions and air pollution levels at a specific receptor site.

Rudolph, chair of the Department of Chemistry in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and a member of both the Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry (CAC) and the Centre for Research in Earth and Space Science (CRESS), is using isotope studies to learn more about the processes that lead to formation of secondary particulate organic matter when volatile organic compounds are emitted into the atmosphere. Particulate pollution has been linked to reduced lung function and other health problems, as well as premature death.

Left: Jochen Rudolph

McConnell, a professor in York’s Department of Earth & Space Science and Engineering, CAC and CRESS, is using complex 3-D chemistry-climate models to study past and future changes in air quality and the impact of this exposure on people, crops and forests. He is researching the impact on Arctic air quality of increased shipping in the north, which is likely to occur with the disappearance of summer ice.

"These projects are a perfect fit for the goal of this competition, which focuses on research that will give decision-makers the scientific tools they need to face future challenges," said Gordon McBean, chair of CFCAS. "This is the sort of information that must be built into sound public policy, innovation and strategic development moving forward into an era of mitigation and adaptation to climate change and associated factors."

Right: Jack McConnell

"Clean air is important to all Canadians’ quality of life, as York has recognized through its long-standing commitment to leading air quality and climate change science research," said Stan Shapson, vice-president research & innovation at York University. "Professor Rudolph’s and Professor McConnell’s quantifiable research projects promise to help policy makers to make better-informed decisions about how best to protect the quality of the air we breathe."

The CFCAS has invested over $110 million across Canada over the past eight years to support research. The most recent funding competition, which was funded entirely from interest revenues on CFCAS current investments, was the foundation’s seventh and final under its current mandate.