Advancing Climate Research and Expertise Through the Ontario Climate Consortium
The Ontario Climate Consortium (OCC or Consortium) represents a distributed collective of scientists, researchers and practitioners from across Ontario with a focus on addressing climate change issues pertinent to Ontario and beyond. The OCC has its origins in an original partnership formed by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and York University in 2010 with the development of the Climate Consortium for Research Action Integration (CC-RAI). Universities currently involved in the initiative include McMaster University, Ryerson University, Trent University, University of Guelph, University of Ottawa, University of Waterloo, University of Windsor and Western University.
Climate adaptation is a national, provincial and especially a local issue, so in order to pursue effective local responses to climate risk, decision makers need to be able to ask and answer questions at an appropriate scale. The Consortium has emerged as a direct response to federal and provincial calls for informed, pro-active response to climate change and climate risk. As noted by Ontario’s Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation the province is in need of “the best available data, tools, techniques and technology, including regional climate models, to support climate adaption in Ontario.”
The Consortium developed through a consensus building process with universities across Ontario, all levels of government, conservation authorities, NGOs and the private sector. The Consortium builds upon the well-established climate science expertise located within partner universities but also the practical experience of end-users such as large urban municipalities in the greater Toronto area and conservation authorities across the province. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) provides secretarial services and coordination for the Consortium in partnership with York University. The Secretariat operates from offices housed at TRCA and York University. The Secretariat is located in Toronto, Ontario, but has linkages with university, public, private and NGO partners throughout the province.
The Consortium endeavours to facilitate Ontario’s transition to becoming a climate-resilient, climate-ready province by building local capacity for state of the art climate science and associated research while supporting a wide range of end users and their needs. The OCC aspires to provide the following key services to end-users:
- Climate Modelling and Analysis
- Research Integration & Mobilization
- End-User Climate Services
- Service Agent Support
The OCC has led a number of projects including the development of a climate data portal for Ontario, a database of research and researchers, sector specific research studies (i.e. the insurance industry) as well as activities including ongoing engagement and communication with university, public and private sectors partners.
In addition to the activities above and a number of others currently in development, the Consortium recently held its first annual climate change research symposium (May 2013) and is currently mid-way through a climate vulnerability study underway within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). These two initiatives are explored in greater detail below. For additional details on these and other initiatives please visit ontarioclimate.org.
The symposium provided a forum for advancing research and action on climate change by bringing together business, government and academia. The symposium brought climate related research to the fore with a focus on building more resilient communities, infrastructure and ecosystems. Participants learned about advances in research and understanding as to how changing climate and extreme weather impact areas such as food security, insurance liabilities, threats to supply chains, and public health, etc.
The symposium was held on May 13th 2013 in Toronto. The objectives for the forum were to:
- Participate in a discussion with leading research institutions and organizations eager to identify pro-active ways to adapt to a changing climate while mitigating potential impacts;
- Learn what research is currently underway in the province of Ontario and the role it will play in shaping policy and decision making for years to come;
- Hear directly from researchers and practitioners responding to the challenges of climate change in a diverse array of sectors; and
- Expand networks of collaborators and partners in responding to the challenges of a changing climate.
The intent with this project is to create a list of actionable strategies for increasing resilience to the impacts of climate and extreme weather with respect to two very different community assets in the Region of Peel: (1) Caledon’s agricultural sector, and (2) the Port Credit shoreline. The process of conducting these two projects will provide opportunities for all involved to build experience in understanding and managing climate and extreme weather risks – experience that can be used for similar work in the future. The objectives of the project are to engage in six major processes that aid in data accumulation, organization and interpretation. The six major processes of this project are to:
- Engage with local stakeholders to determine the climate drivers and variables of interest to them;
- Gather baseline climate time series data and compare it with modeled future climate scenarios;
- Develop and validate the relevant future climate parameter datasets at appropriate spatial and temporal resolutions;
- Work with stakeholders to quantify and assess risks in each pilot study area and understand the relative significance of impacts;
- For the pilot study areas, identify, assess and create visualizations of climate change, extreme weather conditions and risks; and
- Prioritize risks to manage and identify potential adaptation strategies.
The primary project partners are the Region of Peel and the Great Lakes Integrated Science and Assessments center.
Outcomes and Conclusions
Climate and Extreme Weather Resilience in the Region of Peel
The goal of this project is to produce “decision-ready” climate and extreme weather information and tools for use across the whole Region of Peel in other related work. Ensconced in the phrase “decision-ready” is the notion that the information produced will be:
- valuable to other end-users;
- fit within current decision-making frameworks;
- be scientifically defensible; and
- effectively address the uncertainty associated with predicting future climate.
The project will be implemented in two phases. Deliverables include:
- a white paper which will document the risk assessment process; and
- the pilot study reports produced for Peel Region.
In addition, a video chronicle will follow the development of the two pilot study projects. These videos are available on the project website.
Dutfield, S. (2014). Advancing Climate Research and Expertise Through the Ontario Climate Consortium. Ed. Rachel M. Gregg. [Case study on a project by the Ontario Climate Consortium]. Retrieved from CAKE: http://cakex.org/case-studies/advancing-climate-research-and-expertise-through-ontario-climate-consortium (Last updated February 2014)