David Barber used to be a skeptic.
Barber has spent almost 30 years studying sea ice in the Arctic region. For the first 10 years he thought that changes he was observing in the ice, and the effects they had on the Arctic ecosystem, were as a result of natural variability. He was not convinced that global warming was responsible.
Over the next 10 years, he began to notice a pattern emerge in his own data and that of many other scientists. He began to see evidence that not only was global warming real, it was occurring at an alarmingly rapid pace. It was enough to convince him that global warming is happening and that it is a serious problem.
“Over the last five years of my career I have become extremely concerned about what I see and the rate of change that we are seeing in the Arctic,” says Barber. “I have become more vocal about telling the public what we see in the Arctic, and how the results are a precursor to what we are going to see in the more temperate and tropical parts of the planet in the decades to come.”
It is a message he will bring to Brandon on March 18 as the keynote speaker for Assiniboine Community College’s (ACC) Prairie Innovation Forum.
Barber, Canada’s Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba, is a leading authority on how global warming in the Arctic will affect climate change on our planet.
He has led a number of research projects as part of the 2007-08 International Polar Year, a research effort that involved 60 countries and a multidisciplinary team of international scientists that have studied ice, atmosphere and ocean systems in both hemispheres.
Barber will be talking about his work in the Arctic and the links between environmental change, health and the economy and unveiling some of the latest results of the ongoing research programs.
“We are seeing the first strongest signs of a warming planet in both poles,” he says. “I will focus on the evidence that we are finding in the Arctic, about what is happening, how quickly it is happening, why it is happening and what we think the near future looks like for the Arctic.”
Arctic sea ice is melting at a rate of around 70,000 square kilometres per year, which is an area equivalent to the size of Lake Superior. It is predicted that the Arctic will be ice free throughout the summer season somewhere between 2030 and 2050, something that has not occurred in over a million years.
Although the planet has gone through warming and cooling trends in the past, says Barber, it is the scale and the speed of the current warming trend that is alarming.
“I think the Arctic is a good indicator for what’s happening to the globe as a general evolution of global warming, and it gives us an early warning sign,” he says. “The bad news part of that message is that the rate of change is accelerating in the Arctic and it has been accelerating over the last 10 years.”
Barber will also give a scientist’s perspective on the technologies that need to be developed as an alternative to our current fossil fuel-driven economy.
ACC is at the foref ront of this new, emerging bioeconomy. It intends to establish the Prairie Innovation Centre at its new home at the 1st Street North Campus. The centre will be a dedicated LEED-certified facility for research and training to support technology and innovations in the areas of renewable energy and other bioproducts.
As it moves forward with the project, ACC will present the second annual Prairie Innovation Forum on March 18 and 19 at the Canad Inns and Keystone Centre in Brandon. The theme for this years’ event, which is again sponsored by the RBC Foundation, is “Reducing Our Footprint” and it will explore innovative practices for businesses and communities to respond to the issues around climate change.
For more information about the Prairie Innovation Forum visit www.prairieinnovation.caor call Assiniboine Community College at 204 725 8700 ext 6199.