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Canada's climate change research at risk: U of T physicist

Researchers at U of T and Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society say funding cuts mean less data about changes to Arctic oceans, clouds and glaciers (photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty)

A crisis is looming for Canadian climate research, writes U of T Physics Professor Paul J. Kushner and his colleagues from the National Executive of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) in an op-ed for The Globe and Mail.

Kushner, principal investigator of the Canadian Sea Ice and Snow Evolution Network (CanSISE) and vice-president of CMOS, Wayne Richardson, president of CMOS, and Martin Taillefer, president of Maritime Way Scientific and past president of CMOS, argue that funding cuts will have severe repercussions for climate change research conducted by the Government of Canada’s Climate Change and Atmospheric Research (CCAR) program. 

“While our scientific understanding is advancing, our climate is still changing and we must figure out the causes and impacts of those changes – this is imperative,” they contend. “Canada needs continued investment in climate research to stay up-to-date with these advances, to lead the market with new technologies, new observations, framework commitments that require accounting for greenhouse gas emissions and sudden environmental changes that will impact us.”

The $7-million per year in funding has helped train over 350 undergraduate students, graduate students and other research staff and supported field research across Canada.

Researchers are studying everything from the role of greenhouse gases and aerosol particles in recent Arctic sea ice loss to the Fort McMurray wildfires. Other research areas in an era of rapid global warming include: the state and future of the Arctic’s ocean, clouds, air quality and permafrost; the storing of carbon dioxide in the Labrador Sea; and changes to cold climate soils and snow, and their impact on water resources.

But the 2017 federal budget did not include a renewal of the CCAR program.

“As a result, these science networks will have to terminate personnel and science positions, cancel training opportunities, shut down field programs and limit Canada’s participation in international programs that are looking at global aspects of climate change,” the researchers say. 

Read the op-ed