PROFile - Dr. Danny Blair

Acting dean of science, acting principal of the Richardson College for the Environment, director of science for Prairie Climate

With the best office on campus, Dr. Danny Blair has a great view of the year’s first snowfall. According to the geography professor, prairie winters will continue to grow shorter, warmer and wetter as climate change begins to affect our part of the world.

Blair is in this 30th year at the University of Winnipeg (U of W), and while most of that time has been spent teaching, he now works primarily in the administrative side of things. He says should he be the next permanent dean of science, he hopes to bring more teaching back into his portfolio.

“It’s getting to know students on a personal basis, on a level where you can really understand what their hopes and dreams are and you can help them figure it out, because that’s what it’s really all about,” Blair says. 

Although not in the classroom, Blair has been doing plenty of research with his team at Prairie Climate Centre, a platform that aims to communicate about climate change in the prairies in a mobilizing way.

“A lot of people don’t appreciate how much change is coming to the prairies, and that’s our mission, to tell people it’s coming,” Blair says. 

For example, he explains, in 50 years, Winnipeg will see a total of seven weeks of +30 C weather, up from the current two. He says the implications are massive. Storms, pests and agriculture will be affected, and we can expect to see more droughts and floods.

Area of research: Translating complex science about climate change into something people understand … it’s basic human instinct. We are likely to react to something that’s going to affect us rather than someone else in the some distant world in the future.

What is the last book you read?: The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet.

What is the most immediate climate change that is already underway?: The honest truth is that for most people and applications, climate change hasn’t been a problem here, so it’s been hard to convince people … in the not-too-distant future, we’re going to see almost certainly a change in the frequency of floods and droughts.

What is something people can go home and do today that might help?: The most important and easier thing a person can do is assess their transportation choices. About 40 per cent of Manitoba’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation.

Check out climateatlas.ca to learn more.

Published in Volume 71, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 24, 2016)

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