Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Douglas College lab technician refutes popular global warming beliefs in article

A Douglas College Geography lab technician has sparked the attention of fellow geographers after co-authoring an article refuting popular beliefs on global warming.

Tyler Herrington and his co-author, Kirsten Zickfeld, have published a piece arguing that carbon emission-reduction policies will not only benefit future generations, but also those who implement them.

“It’s a widely held misconception that the main effects of CO2 emissions will not be felt for several decades to centuries after emission. I was taught that myself when I was an undergrad,” Herrington said.

In their article – published on Environmental Research Letters in March – Herrington and Zickfeld respond to a 2014 letter written by Ricke and Caledeira that estimates the median time lag between a carbon dioxide emission and the maximum-warming response is a decade on average.

Upon reading the letter, something clicked for Herrington.

“The moment I saw it, I saw that they had only considered 100 gigatons of carbon – what if we go out to the extremes – to 1,000 gigatons or 5,000 gigatons? That, of course, will affect the effects,” Herrington said. “So I called Kirsten right away and said ‘they missed something huge here.’”

Zickfeld – who was Herrington’s Master’s supervisor at Simon Fraser University - had been invited to write an article on the subject and asked Herrington to be a co-author.

The SFU Geography grad had focused on a similar subject matter for his Master’s thesis, which was also featured on Earth System Dynamics, the online journal of the European Geoscience Union.

Herrington, who is considering pursuing a PhD, is now focusing on educating people on the findings of the research.

While he notes that the article on Earth System Dynamics is quite technical and better suited to a climate-science audience, the findings co-authored with Zickfeld, he said, are important to everyone.

“The realization that the implementation of emission-reduction policies will have benefits in the near-term - and not only in the long-term - may make the idea of emission reductions more palatable,” he said, adding that he may try to build some of his findings into future lectures or discussions with students in climate-related courses.

Herrington is also considering research on climate adaptation to complement his background in climate science.

“At the rate we continue to burn fossil fuels, climate adaptation will be crucial for municipalities, governments, and corporations to consider in their medium- to long-term plans,” he said. “I’ve done research on the physical climate, now let’s focus on the adaptation – how are we going to adapt to future climate change?”