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Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’

Youth Climate Report and York University Researchers in Doha, COP18

The most recent meeting of the UNFCCC at COP 18 meeting in Doha saw the premiere of Neko Harbour Entertainment Inc’s third edition of the Youth Climate Report (YCR). Producers Mark Terry and John Kelly premiered the film for representatives of the United Nations, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other delegates at the Doha Round of climate change negotiations.

The production included interviews with senior researchers and students from around the world, including researchers and students from York University. The project showcases the latest climate change research and discoveries made by scientists from around the world. The four interviews with researchers and students from York University represented one of only two submissions from a Canadian university.

This edition of YCR included interviews with Dr. Ellie Perkins (Faculty of Environmental Studies(FES)), Dr. Kaz Higuchi (Faculty of Environmental Studies(FES)) & Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (Geography)), Dr. Richard Bello (Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (Geography)), and Dr. Gregory Thiemann (Faculty of Environmental Studies(FES)). Students from a variety of faculties participated as the interviewers including, Sindy Singh (FES), Shishir Handa (LAPS – Geography), Masao Absinthe (LAPS – Geography) and Kristina Delidjakova (LAPS – Geography).


The film included submissions from four other countries including the United States, Cameroon, Sudan and Singapore and has been screened daily at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) symposium since the beginning of the negotiations. This project was coordinated by CC-RAI, a partnership between York University and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). TRCA and York University are currently leading the development of the Ontario Regional Climate Change Consortium with support from other Ontario universities.

A stock-taking session for the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWGLCA) Doha COP18 2012 – courtesy of John Kelly

Many thanks to the students and faculty that participated in this project as well as the Faculty of Environment Studies, our partner on this project. The Ontario Regional Climate Change Consortium (ORCCC) aims to equip public and private sector decision makers with regionally-specific climate data, intelligence and adaptation services that enable effective policy and investment responses to climate risk in Ontario. The ORCCC initiative has been led by the TRCA and York University. For additional information contact Program and Communications Manager, Stewart Dutfield at

Youth Climate Report is produced by Neko Harbour Entertainment Inc., a documentary and media production company based in Toronto, Canada.  To date, the company has produced two documentaries — The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning and The Polar Explorer — that have brought the science of climate change to audiences worldwide. The current project showcases the latest climate change research and discoveries made by scientists from around the world. The United Nations had also invited Neko Harbour Entertainment Inc. to screen the film at the United Nations in New York City.

Re-Setting the Table – A Perspective on Ontario’s Food System and Climate Change: Towards Integrated Sustainable Food Systems

Courtesy of the Farmland Trust

Ontario is home to Canada’s best climatic zones for agricultural production. The combination of temperate climate and rich soils allows Ontario to produce the greatest variety of agricultural products, with the highest economic value, of any region in Canada. However the future of farming in Ontario is uncertain due to competing land use pressures, increasing climate variation and extreme weather events (and, associated damage costs) related to climate change.

Expected Climate Impacts on Agriculture in Ontario

Managing through uncertainty (of all kinds) is a common element of farming life.  Weather has always been a challenge and there are numerous valuable adaptive approaches already employed by farmers.  However, global and regional climate change scenarios point to a scope and scale of change that exceeds anything previous precedence.  Between 2010 and 2039, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects average warming of 1-3°C across much of North America and, beyond this period, annual warming is expected to increase. The resulting environmental changes will test the capacity of individual farmers to respond, and will likely push beyond the threshold of “normal” agricultural adaptation.

Today, the most immediate threat to agriculture is the loss of farmland and the economic viability of medium-small farm businesses. The Ontario Farmland Trust (‘the Trust’) is at the forefront of the farming crisis. The Trust works to protect and preserve farmland, enhance the viability of farming and to safeguard our food security, not just here in Ontario, but across Canada. At the recent Farmland Preservation Forum hosted by the Trust, I had a chance to hear a panel of agricultural experts discuss the key challenges that are threatening food and farming in Ontario. One of the first presentations helped to elucidate the urgency of the situation and the importance of farmland preservation to food-self-sufficiency, which is the ability to a specified area to provide for its own need. The study revealed that Ontario is currently a net exporter of food, but by 2036 it will have a food deficit. This means that if the projected population increase of 34.4% or 4.5 million people by 2036 is realized the province of Ontario will no longer be able to meet the nutritional requirements of its residents within the existing agriculture and land use model (McCallum, 2011).

Courtesy of the Farmland Trust

This sobering revelation is compounded by the ongoing struggle to manage growth while preserving and protecting farmland and water resources.  Conversely, I also learned about the untapped potential in Ontario, specifically in the Golden Horseshoe.  Golden Horse is a geographically distinct sub-region in southern Ontario that is one of the largest food and farming clusters in North America, consisting of one million acres of farmland producing over 200 agricultural crops. This agricultural-rich area is home to 6.5 million people and is considered to have the fastest growing populations in Canada, which has created significant challenges for farming and local communities. In response to these pressures, a collaboration of five regional governments and other stakeholders have recently developed the Golden Horseshoe Agriculture & Agri-food Strategy  and Food & Farming Action Plan. The action plan identifies several goals to building partnerships, to foster innovation and to link food, farming and health. While the plan promotes economic development and the importance of educating people to make healthy food choices, it doesn’t go as far as to join-up production with the nutritional requirements of consumers. In my opinion this is actually where the greatest untapped potential lays – sustainable, health promoting food systems.

This view requires a shift in thinking from a supply-focus to a consumer-focus food system. It requires a convergence of agriculture and health policy to release the economic potential of medium-small scale producers and processors, while re-connecting people to their food and the land, and providing the foundation for a integrate strategy to adapt to climate change. One concept that embodies this approach is regional optimal consumption planning. This concept links regional requirements to optimise nourishment and organises production, processing, and distribution to match those needs, and in this way, respects socio-cultural and ecosystem-based factors (Desjardins et al p.439, 2010). This approach may seem ‘radical’ to some, but we already know that diet-related health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease are on the rise and if we continue to flounder in terms of growth management. – Ontario will be food insecure by 2036, forcing us to become more dependent on the volatile global food market unless we act now.

Courtesy of the Farmland Trust

In summary, even though the implications of climate change are still being realized, adaptation strategies can work by supporting a vision for a sustainable, health promoting food system. Joined-up agriculture and health policy is needed to unlock the full potential of local medium-small scale producers and processors through integrated approaches, such as optimising regional consumption planning. Events such as the Farmland Preservation Forum are important to facilitate lively discussion and debate about food and farming related issues among local and provincial governments, farmers and neighbours. The Forum was able to highlight the many challenges facing farmland protection and preservation, while focusing our attention on the vulnerabilities in our food system and the uncertainty of our future food self-sufficiency.  However, Ontario has a rich agricultural heritage and farmers continue to manage through uncertainty. The Golden Horseshoe Action Plan maybe part of this needed response, but it will also take political will, leadership and public involvement to mobilise action to achieve food self-sufficiency, community resiliency and adaptability in relation to the impacts of climate change. We all have a role to play in creating a sustainable, healthy food future.


Jamai Schile, CC-RAI Graduate Assistant and Masters Candidate explores the connection between health, planning and climate adaptation

Jamai Schile is a graduate student within the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, Planning Program where she is pursuing a degree in regional planning. With over 10 years experience in environmental management and agriculture, she is currently exploring planning concepts in rural/ regional sustainable food systems.

Desjardins E, MacRae R, Schumilas T. Meeting future population food needs with local production in Waterloo region: linking food availability and optimal nutritional requirements. Agric Human Values. 2010; 27(2): 129 – 140

McCallum, Charlotte. (2011) Farmland Requirements for Ontario’s Growing Population to 2036.

The report was completed in 2011, and will soon be available on the OFLT website:

Other sources of information on Agriculture and Climate Change:

People’s Food Policy Project

BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA

David Suzuki Foundation _ Food & Climate Change…What Can You Do?

A Q&A with Prof. Mark Winfield on his new book: Blue-Green Province: The Environment and Political Economy of Ontario

The Blue Green Economy (UBC Press)

Canada has been in the news quite frequently of late in terms of environment policy as it relates to climate change and the oil industry across the country, in particular the Alberta Tar Sands. Understanding the complexities of federal environmental policy not to mention provincial policy can challenging for policy makers themselves, not least those organizations and communities who will be impacted by that policy. At a fundamental level policy level is an iterative process informed by the changing winds of political priorities and ideology.

In Blue-Green Province: The Environment and Political Economy of Ontario, Prof. Mark Winfield addresses the complex and often contradictory arena of environmental policy in Canada at the provincial and national level.

In his new book, Winfield investigates the link between environmental policy and the influence of successive Ontario government’s social, political and economic priorities. Through an in-depth analysis of the differences between the reign of Conservative to Liberal parties and the most recent federal and provincial elections of 2011, Winfield explores the implications of environment and energy policy in Ontario and across Canada.

CC-RAI recently had the opportunity to catch up with Prof. Winfield and get his thoughts on some of the implications of this research and the response to the work so far.

Prof. Mark Winfield

Since the 2011 election the primary political focus has been on the province’s economic challenges rather than the environment. Will Ontario be able to find a way to advance environmental sustainability and the economic prosperity?

I believe the potential to do that is there, but whether the province is going to carry through in those directions is an increasingly open question. The 2009 Green Energy Act, however flawed, represented the most serious effort ever seen by a provincial government in Ontario to link environmental and economic policy in a positive way. The legislation was intended to provide the foundation for a renewable energy technology manufacturing and services sector in the province.

Unfortunately since then the signals have become less and less promising. There has been a lot of wavering on the commitment to green energy – the pre-election ban on offshore wind projects, continued commitment to an electricity system that is 50% nuclear even in a post-Fukushima world and the uncertainty about the outcome of the FIT review. Moreover the government’s overall economic agenda has been incorporating some decidedly unsustainable dimensions – the emphasis on mining development in the boreal region of the far north, industry-friendly ”reforms” of the environmental approvals and forest tenure systems and looming cuts to the budgets of the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources, leapfrogging sprawl-facilitative amendments to the Places to Grow Plan and the apparent withering of the province’s efforts on climate change mitigation – all come to mind. The positive agenda from an environmental perspective has by comparison been decidedly thin.

The Drummond report, with its emphasis on the province’s budgetary situation and the need to dramatically reduce provincial expenditures, has offered very little in terms of a positive agenda or vision for the future (although it does pointedly ask the provincial government to provide one). The province itself, although enthusiastically embracing the agenda what Mr. Drummond has provided it, seems as lost as ever on the actual way forward.

Is Ontario’s future green? Can we expect environmental policy to continue to play a prominent role in Ontario politics?

There is no doubt that environmental issues will continue to play a prominent role in Ontario politics. One of the most important features of the most recent wave of public concern for the environment in Canada and Ontario, which ran from the early part of the 2000s to the economic crisis of 2008, was the shift in the demographic base of concern for environmental issues. A decade ago those identifying the environment as their leading public policy concern to pollsters were typically age 55+, high income, high education and lived in urban areas. Current polling data indicates there has now been a generational shift in the base of concern to the under 35 cohort and that the concern is more evenly shared regionally and over different income and education levels. That suggests to me that the environment isn’t going to go away as a major issue anytime soon.

The collapse of the Green Party’s vote in the 2011 election was the result of a combination of factors that I describe in my book, particularly concerns over the prospects of a Progressive Conservative win in a very close election. However, if the other three major parties continue to fail to offer a positive vision for the province’s environmental and economic future, one can certainly envision support moving back in the direction of the Greens, particularly among younger voters.

 Why were you motivated to right the book at this time?

Although the book was a long time in development - parts of it in fact date back to my doctoral thesis completed more than 20 years ago – the timing of its release has I think worked out well. The province is searching for a way forward in the face of some very serious environmental and economic challenges. My hope is that this refection on the evolution of the relationship between the province’s changing society, environment, economy and politics will help to inform those conversations in a constructive and useful way.

Why do you think scholarship in this area is so lacking despite the increasing importance environmental policy provincially? Nationally?

The Canadian environmental policy literature on events at the provincial level remains very thin, despite the fact that over the past 20 years the provinces have become increasingly dominant players in energy, environment and natural resources policy. They have also become the key focal points for environmental policy innovation – witness British Columbia’s carbon tax, Quebec’s climate change strategy, and Ontario’s coal-fired electricity phase-out and Green Energy Act.

The situation with respect to scholarly work is beginning to change, and I think there is increasing recognition that, at least for now, the real centre of environmental policy action in North America has shifted to the sub-national level. At the same time, it is the part of the reflective and analytical nature of scholarship that it will inevitably lag somewhat behind where the conversations are at in the real time world of politics and public policy.

What has the response been to the book so far? Have you heard much from the Ontario government?

No congratulatory notes from the premier so far, but the general response has been very positive – the book seems to have filled a gap in the existing literature on environmental policy in Canada and on Ontario government and politics.

Late last year a Victoria publisher frustrated with Canada’s withdrawl from Kyoto sent a short climate change primer to every Canadian MP If you could place your book on the MP reading list along with a few others what would they be?

Tim Leduc’s Climate, Culture, Change: Inuit and Western Dialogues with a Warming North. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press 2012 would be an obvious choice.

Professor Mark Winfield (Faculty of Environmental Studies)  is co-chair of the FES Sustainable Energy Initiative (SEI) and a Fellow of York’s Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS).


Happy Holidays from CC-RAI

CC-RAI Newsletter December 2011

It has been a tremendously busy year for CC-RAI, TRCA and York University. As 2012 draws closer we wanted to highlight what we have been working on over the last few months. Our December newsletter is now available, as is our previous September edition. The nature of a changing climate has created a wide range of social, economic and environment issues that will need to be addressed now and in the years and decades to come. CC-RAI looks forward to working with partners in Ontario, Canada and abroad to better understand, mitigate and adapt to the challenges of climate change. If you are interested in becoming involved or would like to work with CC-RAI and its partners on a specific project do not hesitate to contact us.

CC-RAI will be closed over the holidays, but would like to wish all our partners, and supporters a Happy Holidays and a very merry New Year! For our partners and supporters here’s a link to some holiday cheer – “I’m A Climate Scientist (made by real climate scientists).

Happy Holidays!


Happy Holidays from CC-RAI











SSHRC Internships: Sarah Applebaum developing the business case for climate change adaptation at Toronto Environment Office


Sarah Applebaum is a SSHRC intern at the City of Toronto's Enviroment Office. Sarah's work has focused on engaging stakeholders around issues of resilience and extreme weather

As an MBA student specializing in Sustainability at the Schulich School of Business at York University I jumped at the chance to work with the Toronto Environment Office (TEO) for the summer. The initial draw of the position was the opportunity to develop a business case for climate change adaptation activities at the City. As my internship progressed, priorities within the office have shifted and new projects arose. 

Through a partnership with The Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, we convened a multi-stakeholder meeting involving infrastructure providers, utilities, the private sector, academics, and representatives from the three orders of government. The aim of this meeting was to gauge interest in the formation of a Toronto Region Action Group to discuss resilience to extreme weather. This is an initiative that is moving forward, with the first meeting of the action group scheduled for late September. 

It is an extremely interesting time to be working for the municipal government, and Toronto Environment Office. Last week, the Core Service Review, conducted by KPMG, recommended that the City undertake a number of changes and reductions in its environmental protection and improvement activities to help the city realize cost savings and close the deficit gap. 

Political leanings and ideology aside, this is a great example of how our government works and the democratic process. On Thursday July 21, the public is invited to provide deputations (in person or written) expressing their opinion about these proposed reductions.  

With a focus in both sustainability and organizational change, I am very interested in the outcomes of this process. How will the vision, mission, and activities of the Toronto Environment Office evolve? How will these changes be communicated not only to TEO staff, but within city hall and to the general public? How will the key decision makers obtain buy in from key stakeholders? 

 About the Graduate Student: Sarah is an MBA Candidate (2012) at the Schulich School of Business with a focus on Sustainability and Organizational Change. She holds a Bachelor degree in Environmental Science and International Development Studies from Dalhousie University. Sarah is an active student leader within the Schulich Community. She is President of the Schulich Chapter of Net Impact (an international organization focused on socially responsible business issues), executive member of the planning committee for the Inaugural Schulich International Case Competition, and is a consultant with the York Sustainable Enterprise Consultants. After completion of the MBA, Sarah plans to work with organizations to embed sustainability principles into their business models and strategic plans.

Ontario Regional Climate Change Consortium Strategy

Ontario Regional Climate Change Consortium (ORCCC) Strategy

Since February of 2010, CC-RAI has been working with universities, as well as private and private sector organizations across the province to develop a pan-Ontario climate science, research and services initiative.  In October of 2010, an Ad Hoc Committee was formed to address the need for Ontario focused climate science services. Since then, the Committee has met at various universities across the province. Most recently we hosted a workshop at OCAD University focused on identifying climate research and service needs for stakeholders in Ontario. After months of consultation, CC-RAI is pleased to present the Ontario Regional Climate Change Consortium (ORCCC) Strategy.

The Strategy outlines an approach to developing and enhancing capacity within Ontario to deliver cutting-edge climate research and modelling expertise to a wide array of end-users. Recognizing that not one organization or university has the capacity to provide the wide variety of information, data and expertise required – a collaborative approach to action took hold. The Strategy outlines an approach to mobilizing existing research around climate change in Ontario with an aim to strengthen opportunities for new research and scholarship.

If you are interested in learning more about the ORCCC please contact CC-RAI!

A Regional Response to the Need for Climate Research and Services

Since February of 2010, CC-RAI has been working with universities, as well as private and private sector organizations across the province to develop a pan-Ontario climate science, research and services initiative.  In October of 2010, an Ad Hoc Committee was formed to address the need for Ontario focused climate science services. Since then, the Committee has met at various universities across the province.  At each meeting support for collaborative action and cooperation between various stakeholders has grown.

Dr. Gordan McBean, a Canadian climatologist, professor at the University of Western Ontario and Director of Policy at the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction chaired the Ad Hoc Committee process and has actively supported the development of the new Ontario Region Climate Change Consortium (ORCCC).

Ontario Regional Climate Change Consortium Q&A

The Consortium and its objectives have been defined through a collaborative and inclusive consensus-building process. The Consortium represents a made-in Ontario solution to provide decision makers in government and the private sector with the ‘climate intelligence’ they need to address the challenges of a changing climate now and into the future.

Through this process a strategy has been developed to identify Ontario’s need for climate services and research and its capacity to deliver them. In advance of the release of the ORCCC Strategy and for additional information, please take a look at the Consortium Q&A: Ontario Regional Climate Change Consortium: Building Necessary Capacity for Climate Services.

Regional Climate Modelling Workshop Presentations: Great Lakes’ hydrodynamic models and atmospheric models

Professor Ram Yerubandi,  a research scientist for Environment Canada based at the Canada Centre for Inland Water, presented at CC-RAI’s Climate Science Workshop in February 2010.

Yerubandi’s presentation focuses on the linkages between the hydrodynamic modelling of the Great Lakes and atmospheric modelling.

Yerubandi highlights the importance of understanding the dynamic interplay between hydrodynamic systems and regional climate modelling.

His presentation explores the evolution of hydrodynamic modelling and their importance in accurately predicting changes to water quality and quantity in Ontario’s future.

Regional Climate Modelling Workshop Presentations: Perspectives on regional climate modelling in Ontario

At CC-RAI’s Climate Science Workshop held in March 2010, Professor Claude Duguay, founding director for the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3) presented on the State of the Art Perspectives on Regional Climate Modelling in Ontario.

Duguay’s presentation highlighted the importance of understanding the role the cryosphere (snow and ice) plays in the global climate system. IC³ is focused on understanding the physical basis of climate change, and its impacts in biophysical and human systems, and adaptation and mitigation in response to climate change.

IC³ is based at the University of Waterloo. Its goals are:

  1. To improve the understanding of feedback mechanisms and physical processes of the cryosphere with the Earth’s climate system.
  2. Improve the representation of cryospheric processes in models to reduce uncertainties in the simulation of climate and climate change predictions.
  3. Further the development of cryosphere datasets for the evaluation and improvement of climate models.

Regional Climate Modelling Workshop Presentations: Where we are and where we need to go

At CC-RAI’s Climate Science Workshop, held in March 2010, Jack McConnell, professor of atmospheric science in York’s Department of Earth & Space Science & Engineering and member of the Centre for Research in Earth & Space Science (CRESS), presented on climate research and modelling, as well as Ontario’s current capacity to develop regional climate models.

The presentation focused on the importance of developing integrated regional climate modelling capacity within Ontario.

McConnell highlighted the importance of the integrating Great Lakes  models, hydrology, crysospheric modelling, air quality, forestry and ecological data into regional climate models.

He also noted the importance of the human resources or highly-qualified personnel required do this work.

McConnell’s two-pronged approach to developing regional climate modelling capacity focuses on supporting collaboration and advancing the development of high-resolution modelling.