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New research targets climate change solutions for BC and beyond

Developing new climate-friendly refrigerators, saving lives during extreme weather events and making carbon pollution cost accounting more accurate—these are just some of the projects among the 11 new fellowships announced today by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS).

The fellowships for 2014 will receive a total of $474,000.  Research will be carried out by PhD and master’s students at the four PICS universities: the University of Victoria (UVic), University of British Columbia (UBC), Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). The researchers will work with experts from a range of university disciplines, government, NGOs and industry over the duration of their projects, which range from two to three years.

Four of the eleven new fellowships have been awarded to SFU professors reaching a total of $156,000, covering topics on:

  • Developing of new energy-eficient adsorption cooling systems

Project proponent: Dr. Majid Bahrami, Mechatronic Systems Engineering, Faculty of Applied Science.

PhD Student: Khorshid Fayazmanesh

  • The social cost of carbon and Canadian policy

Project Proponent: Dr. Mark Jaccard, School of Resource & Environmental Management, Faculty of Environment

Master Student: Kaitlin Boyd

  • Educating/mobilizing communities in a changing climate: Initating action on Haida Gwaii

Project Proponent: Dr. David Zandvliet, Institute for Environmental Learning, Faculty of Education.

Master Student: Barbara Wilson

  • Mapping and mananging heat-related vulnerability and mortality in BC: A GVRD case study

Project Proponent: Dr. Anders Knudby, Department of Geography, Faculty of Environment

PhD Student: Derrik Ho

PICS executive director Tom Pedersen says the world requires technical innovation and societal change to cope with climate change and to reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. “With an emphasis on practical solutions, these fellowships will help British Columbia at a policy, personal and organizational level to take the right steps toward mitigating and slowing climate change,” he says.

Link to PICS media release        Link to SFU news online



Workshops test energy conservation

A new “energy conservation game” has been added to the PICS SFU energy workshops that allows children to understand power consumption within their homes using different forms of visualizations. This tool is being developed by Mengting Sun, a SFU SIAT graduate student, under the supervision of Dr. Lyn Bartram, and tested in the workshops. The premise of the research is that informing people about power and energy use is the first step toward encouraging conservation efforts. During the study, participants get to make decisions over everyday home activities, such as using cold or hot water in the laundry, turning lights on or off, and using the fan instead of the air-conditioner to cool the house.

The outcomes of those energy-related decisions then impact subsequent graphics. The feedback given will be used to fine-turn the game and its possible applications.

Piece from the PICS Newsletter - Fall 2013

DSC_9003 Syed Research

 PICS Briefing

"Greening" the Fleet: Using a Lifecycle Modeling Tool for Procurement Decisions

Authors: Erik Kjeang and Mehdi Shahraeeni: School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, Simon Fraser University

The pilot study results indicate that the “Fleet Life Cycle Analysis” tool will assist public and private fleet operators in Canada to adopt viable low-carbon alternatives to conventional vehicles. For fleet operators, the data show that moving in this direction offers short payback times, saves money, improves air quality, and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Work is underway to make this tool publicly available online later this year. 

Click here for a link to the Briefing note.

This research was supported by a PICS Postdoctoral Fellowship (M. Shahraeeni), City of Surrey, and Mitacs.


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PICS White Paper

Strengthening BC’s Agriculture Sector in the face of Climate Change

March 30th, 2013

Climate change will make it even harder to put locally sourced food on our tables if steps are not taken to strengthen the British Columbia (BC) agriculture sector, according to a new report.

The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) white paper, “Strengthening BC’s Agriculture Sector in the face of Climate Change,” is the result of interviews and focus groups with agricultural producers and specialists across the province. The paper builds on the findings of the BC Agriculture Climate Change Adaptation Risk & Opportunity Assessment published in 2012.

The new report notes that average farm sizes have increased across North America but in BC there is a prevalence of small, family-owned farms with high product diversity and an unusually limited land base. Producer populations are also aging, with only five percent of farm operators under the age of 35.

Co-author of the white paper and the assessment, Erica Crawford, says farmers are taking on increasing risks, costs and responsibilities (including new regulations and standards), while at the same time facing decades of reductions in publicly funded agricultural support services and resources. She says with climate change now being added to the mix, the pressure on the industry is immense.

 “The past climate is no longer a sufficient guide to the future, with shifting average and extreme conditions, rising complexity and variability, and increasing cumulative and long-term climate impacts,” she says. “This affects everything on the farm including the viability of certain crops, reliability of water supply, and having to cope with new pests, diseases, and more extreme weather events.

Link to press release

Link to list of PICS White Papers

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PICS White Paper

Are Small-to-Mid Sized Businesses the Catalyst to a Low Carbon Economy in BC?

April 18th, 2013

The latest PICS white paper, "Are Small-to-Mid Sized Businesses the Catalyst to a Low Carbon Economy in BC?", reviews research that British Columbia businesses that reduce their carbon footprint not only lower their annual operating costs but also typically pay off the investment required within a few years.

The report contains the detailed results of 11 Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island organizations that underwent GHG reduction training between 2010 and 2013, including data from more than 500 other BC smallto-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that have worked with Climate Smart.

According to co-author, Elizabeth Sheehan, the eleven organizations profiled are now collectively achieving annual cost savings of $288,650 after reducing emissions from sources including transport, electricity, waste-disposal and heating. This also includes annual emissions reductions of 485.6 tonnes CO2e.

Link to the press release

Link to list of PICS White Papers


Charged up: wooing customers to PEVs

April 3rd, 2013

Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) are still quite rare, but SFU assistant professor Jonn Axsen may have hit on a new way for PEV manufacturers and retailers to woo consumers away from conventional gas and diesel vehicles.

His suggestion: market plug-in electric vehicles and green electricity together.


His strategy arises out of findings from an online survey he conducted last year of 1,500 U.S. consumers who had recently purchased a conventional new vehicle, a hybrid (HEV) or a PEV.

Axsen designed the survey to discover whether or not consumers had any interest in PEVs, green electricity or a combination of the two.

“Across all three respondent segments, pairing a PEV with a green electricity program increased interest in PEVs,” says Axsen, who teaches in the School of Resource and Environmental Management.

“For the conventional car buyers, once we offered green electricity with plug-in vehicles it increased their interest by 23 per cent, which is significant,” he says, adding that interest was even higher among previous HEV and PEV buyers.

For the complete news article go to SFU News online.

For the article "Connecting plug-in vehicles with green electricity through consumer demand" by Jonn Axsen please click here.

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PICS in the news

Price of food goes up with the temperature

August 19th, 2012

The high price of corn, driven up by a searing drought in the United States, could be an indicator of more problems to come, says the executive director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.

Tom Pedersen, who is based at the University of Victoria, says high temperatures in the States have taken their toll on corn crops. As a result, corn was at its highest price ever at the end of July, which was the hottest July in the continental United States since weather statistics have been recorded........

For the complete News go to the Times Colonist