Finding climate solutions

November 2008

Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions update

Rising temperatures, extreme weather, melting sea ice, epidemics of pests—we’ve heard all the doom and gloom about climate change.

But now what? How does BC make the right decisions now that will put us on the path toward a vibrant and sustainable low-carbon future?

To help guide the way, the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) was created earlier this year with a $90-million endowment from the BC government.

Led and hosted by the University of Victoria, PICS puts BC’s best minds—from universities, government and the private sector—under one research umbrella to frame questions and propose solutions to the technological, economic and public policy challenges that lie ahead.

PICS is moving forward on a number of fronts. Discussion papers have been prepared in eight broad areas of policy concern: adaptation priorities, alternative energy, forestry, climate and health, building design, sustainable communities, transportation, and cap and trade systems.

"These papers define the issues and set the questions in each of these areas," says Dr. Tom Pedersen, UVic’s dean of science and PICS spokesperson. "They’ll go to the BC government for feedback, and then we’ll use them as building blocks as we develop our long-term research agenda."

One of the papers is led by UVic’s Dr. Aleck Ostry, a national expert on the social determinants of health. The paper looks at everything from insect-borne disease, to respiratory ailments from fires, to the health impacts on communities dealing with the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

"We’re finding that very little research has been done in BC and Canada to link climate change to health," says Ostry. "This paper sets clear research directions for making those links."

Since September, PICS fellowships have been supporting the projects of eight graduate students from BC’s four research-intensive universities. Topics include mountain pine beetles and climate, urban flood mitigation, and green buildings. A second round of fellowships will be awarded next spring.

Other PICS initiatives in the works include postdoctoral and visiting fellowships—both designed to attract the brightest climate change researchers to BC and encourage international collaborations.

The first in a series of annual PICS forums will likely take place in mid-2009. Each will be built around a theme—such as how best to price carbon emissions—and will be aimed at opinion leaders and the general public.

"We seek to improve the level of public discourse, to get everyone more attuned to the scale of the climate change issue and what we can do about it," says Pedersen. "We have to find the solutions together."
For information on PICS, visit the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions website.