Little greenhouse simulator on the Prairie

By Jon Tewksbury Posted: December 18, 2018 5:15 a.m.

PhD student Lirong Liu is trying to help find solutions to Saskatchewan’s greenhouse gas emissions.
PhD student Lirong Liu is trying to help find solutions to Saskatchewan’s greenhouse gas emissions. Photo: U of R Photography

As carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, governments and agencies worldwide look for solutions to the problem of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere. Lirong Liu, a PhD student in the University of Regina’s Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Communities (IEESC), is trying to understand the harmful effects of emissions while also helping to provide a framework for climate change policy. 

“My research is based on an economic model that simulates different climate change policies to figure out how they impact the environment and Saskatchewan’s economy,” explains Liu. “This model uses actual economic data to estimate how our economy might react to changes in greenhouse gas policy, technology, and other external factors. We can then use the model to simulate various environmental policies and climate change regulations.” 

After completing both an undergraduate and a master’s degree in engineering management and economics in China, Liu started a PhD program at the University of Regina focused on environmental systems engineering because she wanted to take an evidence-based economic approach to solving environmental issues. She got her chance when the Saskatchewan government approached the IEESC research team about conducting simulations for the impacts of climate change policies on different socio-economic conditions. Now, the major objective of Liu’s research is to provide a scientific basis for environmental policy-makers. 

“After simulating the impacts of a carbon tax in the virtual model, I found that taxing carbon may not be an appropriate solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Saskatchewan,” says Liu. “Being a largely resource-based economy, a carbon tax would have a significantly negative impact on the provincial economy. And, when considering ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must also consider other economic impacts, such as employment, gross domestic product, and social welfare.” 

Liu says that she has not yet run all of the policies, but will continue to simulate various potential policies and regulations, comparing results to determine which ones will best work for Saskatchewan. 

“Ultimately, the goal of my research is to help find better solutions to the province’s greenhouse gas problem.” 

Lirong Liu’s research is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Canada Research Chairs Program, and the Government of Saskatchewan. 

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To read more about University of Regina research that has impact, please visit Discourse, the University’s research magazine.