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Metchosin school alumnus featured in Time’s Top 100 Influential People list

Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, colleagues revolutionize linking climate change to extreme weather
Geert Jan Van Oldenborgh, climate scientist and Pearson College graduate in 1980, was recognized as one of Time Magazine’s top 100 influential people of 2021. (Courtesy of Pearson UWC)

Pearson College alumnus and noted climate scientist Geert Jan van Oldenborgh has found himself in the company of entrepreneur Elon Musk and NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang, as one of the 14 innovators in Time Magazine’s 2021 list of top 100 influential people.

Van Oldenborgh – featured with colleague, Friederike Otto – was honoured for his work on the World Weather Attribution Project. The project team proved a link between this summer’s record-shattering heatwave in the Pacific Northwest and human-caused climate change in a matter of days, where previous extreme heat events – such as 2003 in Europe – took years to correlate. The team’s focus on rapid environmental analysis complements the “equally crucial” work of years-long analysis coming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, wrote Bill McKibben, renowned American environmentalist and journalist, in his dedication to Otto and van Oldenborgh in Time.

“For many years, the standard mantra in news stories about hurricanes and heat waves was that no single event can be linked to climate change, though scientists say global warming makes events like this more common,” McKibben wrote. “Thanks to Friederike Otto, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh and their colleagues at the World Weather Attribution project, we can now speak much more confidently.”

READ ALSO: Metchosin’s Pearson College part of new global initiative to support young refugees and trailblazers

Van Oldenborgh, who lives in the Netherlands, said in a release from the college his work and that of the project “would have been much less successful without my Pearson College education,” which he completed in 1980.

“On campus, I learned communication skills with people from different cultures and communication styles which served me well in working in the international teams that are the rule in climate science projects.

The Pearson experience made me much more aware of the wide world outside Europe and North America.”

Van Oldenborgh’s Pearson education also enlightened him to the inequitable access of information across the world, resulting in his creation of the Climate Explorer website, which provides research resources to scientists without consistent Internet access.

READ ALSO: Colwood’s Royal Roads University launches climate action leadership masters program

“This is a tremendous recognition for Geert and truly reflective of where we as a college have been and will continue to be, as we educate and engage young people from around the world on the many positive ways they can influence and take action on climate justice,” said Pearson College president Craig Davis.

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