The Lassonde School of Engineering and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) presented a Climate & Severe Weather Symposium on Nov. 18 featuring climatologist and severe weather researcher Francis Zwiers, McMurtry Fellow Dianne Saxe (York), and Toronto author and poet Christopher Dewdney (Glendon).
Climate change has become a central topic in Canadian public discourse and politics. Extreme weather and climate events – including drought, flooding, extreme heat, intense storms and wildfire – are perceived as becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, and consequently causing more damage.
Lassonde Dean Jane Goodyer made the introductory remarks for the event.
“As Canadians, we must clearly make our contribution to significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said event organizer, York University Professor Peter Taylor. “At the same time, we must plan ahead for adaptation to the weather and climate changes that are now starting to appear and will almost certainly accelerate over the next few decades. Mitigation and adaptation are both essential and our research and expertise can contribute.”
In his presentation “Extreme Weather – Not an Alternative Fact,” Zwiers explored the changes in temperature and precipitation extremes and how human influence affects these changes. He illustrated his findings using specific examples including the 2016 Fort McMurray Fire, which forced upwards of 88,000 Albertans out of their homes.
Saxe’s discussion centered around the human impact on climate change. In her talk “Climate Changes Everything,” she considered Canada’s role as a top 10 emitting country, one that’s heating up faster than the global average. She also addressed the expected risks of climate change, which includes more severe weather, and what actions must be taken to address these risks.
To close the evening, guests were treated to a reading and discussion from prize-winning writer Dewdney on his book 18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and its Weather. This is his sixth work of non-fiction and explores how the atmosphere and weather have shaped the world and human history.
This symposium was made possible thanks to the Lassonde School of Engineering, the Earth & Space Science & Engineering Department, the Centre for Research in Earth and Space Sciences (CRESS), and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS).
About the speakers
Francis Zwiers directs the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC) at the University of Victoria. His former roles include chief of the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis and director of the Climate Research Division, both at Environment and Climate Change Canada. He has served the IPCC in numerous roles, including as a coordinating lead author and bureau member. Zwiers is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society, a recipient of the Patterson Medal and the CMOS President’s Prize.
Dianne Saxe is one of Canada’s most respected environmental lawyers and former environmental commissioner of Ontario. She was appointed unanimously by all MPPs to report to the Legislature on Ontario’s environmental, energy and climate performance, and to be the guardian of the Environmental Bill of Rights. She is now heading Saxe Facts, a business providing strategic advice and presentations on climate, energy and environment. Saxe was appointed a McMurtry Fellow for the 2019-20 academic year with the Faculty of Environmental Studies and the Osgoode Hall Law School.
Christopher Dewdney is a prize-winning Canadian poet and essayist. His poetry reflects his interest in natural history. His book Acquainted with the Night, an investigation into darkness was nominated for both the Charles Taylor Prize and the Governor General’s Award. His latest book, 18 miles, is “a kaleidoscopic and fact-filled journey that uncovers our obsession with the atmosphere and weather.” Dewdney teaches writing and poetry courses at Glendon Campus.