UBC scientist shares in Nobel glow

Just saw this in the Vancouver Sun today, about John Robinson, who has in the past been the lead author of a number of IPCC working groups. He’s also an excellent speaker, so if and when we hear of him giving a talk at UBC, we’ll let you know.

(Vancouver Sun, Oct 13th, 2007 – by Doug Ward)

“Unlike Al Gore, University of B.C. climate change expert John Robinson won’t be going to Oslo, Norway to pick up the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

But Robinson, who has been called “Dr. Sustainability,” felt like a winner when the award was announced early Friday.

He’s among the thousands of scientists who contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared this year’s prestigious award with Gore.

Robinson said Friday “it’s really pleasant to feel that the world is paying more attention to climate change.

“I’ve been in this area of research since the late ’80s and it’s been a long struggle to make the case that climate change really matters.”

Robinson, a professor at UBC’s Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability, said the Nobel committee’s decision to jointly award the Peace Prize to Gore and the IPCC reflects the recent surge in public concern over greenhouse-gas emissions.

“It’s unbelievable how climate change has risen to the top of the policy agenda and hopefully not in a flash-in-the-pan kind of way.”

The IPCC has been releasing regular reports on the state of climate change since it was established by the United Nations in 1988. In an IPCC report earlier this year, top scientists from 113 countries agreed unanimously that the mass burning of fossil fuels, land-use and agriculture practices are melting polar ice caps.

Robinson has written chapters in IPCC reports on the link between sustainability and climate change and on the need to integrate adaptation to climate change with the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions.

The UBC professor said the emergence of climate change as the number-one public issue in many western countries is due to the steady stream of new scientific evidence. People have also been alarmed by natural events such as Hurricane Katrina and the warming of polar ice caps, which is threatening the survival of polar bears.

“The Nobel Prize reflects this public interest. What we have to do now is turn that interest into action, which is a very tough thing to do.”

Robinson faulted Stephen Harper’s Conservative government for being slow to recognize the urgency of climate change.

He said serious moves to cut emissions must be taken now to have an impact 10 or 15 years from now. “We have to bend the curve. The path we are on right now is taking us into a world of ever-increasing emissions.”

Robinson praised B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell for his pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the province by 33 per cent by 2020.

“There is some real leadership being shown by the province. The key question is, how do we turn those targets into action?”

Robinson said the controversial Gateway Program could undermine the premier’s climate change goals by creating more car-dependent sprawl rather than more compact communities.

He said there has been no serious analysis of the long-term implications of Gateway on climate change. Critics fear that Gateway, which will twin the Port Mann Bridge and widen Highway 1 from Vancouver to Langley, could spark a major expansion of carbon-dioxide emissions in the region.”

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David (@ng_dave) is Faculty at the Michael Smith Labs. His writing has appeared in places such as McSweeney's, The Walrus, and boingboing.net. He plans on using Terry as another place to highlight the mostly science-y links he appreciates. In fact, if you liked this one, you might also like his main site generally - this can be found at popperfont.net.