Prof Named to Climate Change Panel

December 13, 2007 - News Release

A University of Guelph geography professor has been appointed to a new provincial expert panel on climate change adaptation.

Barry Smit is among 11 leading scientists and environmental experts who were named to the panel Wednesday by Ontario Environment Minister John Gerretsen. The group will provide scientific advice to the government on the anticipated impacts of climate change in Ontario.

In a news release, Gerretsen said the government is committed to a "greener Ontario. We are cutting emissions, but we also have to be prepared for the consequences we can't avoid."

Some of the anticipated impacts of climate change that the government identified are a drop in the Great Lakes water levels, increased risk to the northern forests and species, and higher incidences of poor air quality and hot-weather health problems.

The panel will be co-chaired by Ian Burton, an emeritus professor from the University of Toronto who, along with Smit and another panel member, Gord McBean of the University of Western Ontario, were part of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC shared the prize this year with environmental activist and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore.

Smit, a global authority on adaptation to climate change, was a lead author in the IPCC's fourth assessment report, published earlier this year. It also included contributions from U of G researchers Johanna Wandel, James Ford and Tristan Pearce.

The first IPCC report, published in 1990, sparked international negotiations that led to adoption of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and, later, the Kyoto Protocol.

Smit has been an IPCC author on adaptation to climate change since 1992. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change and serves as director of the Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research Council Network's agriculture node. He also has written numerous research papers and advises on climate change issues to federal and provincial agencies and international organizations.

In addition, he is leading a research group studying changing Arctic communities as one of the federal government's International Polar Year initiatives. Smit's project involves researchers in northern countries — Canada, the United States, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Greenland, Russia and Iceland — in assessing how sensitive Arctic communities are to climate change and how those communities might adapt. The project received $1.4 million and Smit says it's expected to yield policy and management ideas for coping with changes in northern communities.

Smit is currently in Bali, Indonesia, attending the UN Climate Change Conference.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982,

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