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In my opinion

Forward-looking climate action must be grounded in the latest science

Climate action researchers need to leverage the unique context of our country, while embracing localized strategies informed by rigorous research.


In 2024, humanity continues to face ever-worsening impacts of climate change. It’s beyond time we roll up our sleeves and address the climate crisis globally and here in Canada. One clear path forward draws from the best science available to inform and motivate climate action. The 10 New Insights in Climate Science is an annual research synthesis that began in 2017 through a collaborative initiative of Future Earth, the Earth League and the World Climate Research Programme. This year’s version represents the efforts of 67 leading researchers from 24 countries, and was released at COP28 – the annual United Nations climate gathering of global leaders. The goal of the report is to equip policymakers and a broader informed public with the latest and most pivotal climate science from the previous 18 months. The intent is that an easy-to-digest synthesis can help inform global negotiations like those that take place at the annual COPs and guide policy implementation through 2024 and beyond.

One thread running through the report is that climate strategies and policies must be adapted to regional and sociocultural contexts in order to be successful. Here in Canada, our particular context makes us well-positioned to “localize” our climate action strategies, building from the insights gleaned from reputable international climate science.

Here are four key examples that illustrate where good climate science could inform and complement localized climate action.

First, recent science shows Arctic warming is speeding up and the annual mean temperature over northern Canada has increased by three times the global average. This is bad news for Indigenous Peoples well-being and cultural practices, plant and wildlife survival, and permafrost thaw which will continue to destabilize the global climate. To combat the trend, Canadian Arctic research is shining a light on the impacts of climate and socio-economic change in the Canadian North. For example, one lab (supported by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, an organization of top-level Canadian and international researchers) is studying permafrost-dwelling microorganisms to determine which microbes produce greenhouse gases and which sequester them. The best balance between the two could slow permafrost melt. ArcticNet is another centre of excellence in Canada that brings together more than 230 Arctic researchers. Its North-by-North program explores the impact of climate change on marine and terrestrial ecosystems, through research that must be led by northerners, based on northern knowledge and needs. And work at the federal government’s Polar Knowledge Canada is ongoing to monitor the Nunavut shoreline to see how climate change is affecting the seashore near Arctic communities.

Second, recognizing Indigenous climate leadership, knowledge and perspectives will help Canada implement an equitable pathway to sustainable transformations. The recently published Just Transition Guide shares climate solutions that support the revitalization of Indigenous cultures and languages and is one of many adaptation strategies placing communities and Indigenous Peoples at the forefront of a just energy future. The guide describes case studies, small and large, from some 2,000 Indigenous-led renewable energy projects across Canada. This includes the story of the Piitâpan Solar Project, a solar energy installation powering the community health centre in Little Buffalo, Alberta, and large-scale wind and solar projects, led by the Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario. The cases demonstrate how the usual steps of a major energy project – project site determination, environmental assessment, engineering, operations – take place hand-in-hand with community-led methods such as community visioning, cultural and values assessment, and determining community ownership models and revenue creation.

Third, the sheer volume and variety of our country’s geography means we have a responsibility when it comes to preservation and conservation. Home to large tracts of intact boreal forest, one quarter of the world’s remaining wetlands, and the world’s largest peatland carbon stock, Canada’s abundant natural resources must be safeguarded against climate change for future generations. Indeed, the federal government has committed to protecting 30 per cent of Canadian land and water by 2030 but decisions about which 30 per cent gets protected, and who in fact gets to decide, must rely on science-based evidence to help minimize inevitable trade offs between land use, biodiversity and human activity. Part of the effort includes the government’s promise to plant two billion trees, but this cannot be a substitute for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels. Meeting and exceeding the 30×30 target will be indispensable for maintaining Canadian and global biodiversity, and to understanding the integral links between climate change mitigation and restoring nature.

Fourth, in recognition of the plurality of languages and viewpoints in Canada, the 10 New Insights in Climate Science report was translated into French by our group of researchers. Because there is a well-documented bias towards English language papers in the scientific publishing world, our translation ensures that climate science is available and promoted in both official languages. Publication of research in languages other than English, French or dominant global languages contributes to the democratization of science in our country and around the world.

Forward-looking climate action must be grounded in the latest science. In Canada, where the impacts of climate change are increasingly evident, leveraging our unique context and embracing localized strategies informed by rigorous research is also essential. Whether it’s understanding the accelerated warming in the Arctic, centering Indigenous knowledge and leadership, committing to ambitious conservation targets, or ensuring accessibility of climate science in multiple languages, Canada has the opportunity to lead by example in tackling the climate crisis. By integrating these insights into policies and community action, society can forge together a path towards a more sustainable and resilient future.

The authors are affiliated with Sustainability in the Digital Age, a Concordia University think tank exploring how the digital revolution can drive sustainable systems change, and with Future Earth Canada, a global network of scientists, researchers and innovators collaborating for a more sustainable planet. Andréa Ventimiglia is the advancements manager, Rachelle Fox is the digital communications officer and Micheline Ayoub is the executive director.

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