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Teams led by some of Canada’s top scientists will tackle five key climate-change issues, including how to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in the transportation sector, the scale and nature of liquefied natural gas development, and how to efficiently integrate B.C.’s power grid with Alberta to reduce the burning of coal.

A multiagency $7.5-million research project designed to address the "extraordinary challenge" of climate change and British Columbia's role in dealing with the problem has been announced by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.

Teams led by some of Canada's top scientists will tackle five key issues, including how to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in the transportation sector, the scale and nature of liquefied natural gas development, and how to efficiently integrate B.C.'s power grid with Alberta to reduce the burning of coal.

Tom Pedersen, executive director of PICS, a network based at the University of Victoria involving four B.C. universities, said the goal is to come up with strong recommendations to help the provincial government draft policies to reduce carbon emissions.

"It's not [going to be] wishy-washy. It'll be direct," he said of the recommendations the research is designed to produce. "You know, [we're going to say] 'Here's a road map for the future,' and then it will be up to the political world to say, 'Do we want to follow that pathway or not?'"

Dr. Pedersen said he began planning the project in 2012 after reflecting on the work PICS was doing, and concluding it was failing to substantially affect policy change.

"I recognized we weren't really having that much impact in terms of shaping the policy decisions that British Columbia needs to put in place to deal with the climate challenge," he said. "I stood up at our annual PICS forum … and said, 'We have to change the way we do things. We're spread too thinly, we're trying to do too much, we have not integrated our nearly 40 separate projects, they are not speaking to one another,'" he said. "We need to go to a single-digit number of projects, and we need to zero in on what's really important for British Columbia."

Dr. Pedersen said top teams of researchers have been assembled to tackle the most compelling climate change issues in the province. They are expected to come up with a series of policy briefs over the next five years that will reduce the carbon footprint not just in B.C., but potentially across Canada.

"Every one of the five projects includes multiple disciplines so it's not just computer and mechanical engineering," he said. "We've got economists and, where appropriate, we've got human behavioural psychology, and sociology and scientific expertise of various kinds … and even people skilled in understanding the political world."

Dr. Pedersen said panels that include government and industry representatives will also be involved to help ensure the research finds its way directly into the policy realm.

"I'm not particularly interested in lots of journal articles that will go into libraries," he said. "The challenge for humanity is to first recognize that the planet is small and fully interconnected now and what we are doing to it as a human species in terms of our climate-system adjustments is posing extraordinary stresses for the future of humanity. I wouldn't call that a crisis necessarily, but it's an extraordinary challenge and one that we must not fail to meet. The frustration I feel … is that right now we are failing to meet the challenge."

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