Survey of climate scientists reveals lack of strategic investment in the field

Debbie Lawes
June 26, 2019

Canada is at risk of losing climate science expertise and knowledge as a result of federal funding decisions, according to a survey of climate scientists released today by Evidence for Democracy and the Canadian Climate Forum.

The results, compiled in a 32-page report, found that 77% of climate scientists surveyed believe highly qualified researchers are leaving the field due to a lack of support for their work, while 94% of climate scientists say that they rely on foreign resources to carry out their research. The survey received 84 responses from climate scientists working in higher education (82%) and government (12%) as well as non-profit and private sector scientists. Interviews were also conducted with nine academic scientists.

“Without continued research into climate processes, regional impacts, systemic interactions, implications of extreme events etc., decision-makers will be unable to make informed decisions about any aspect of climate policy,” Dr. Katie Gibbs, Executive Director, Evidence for Democracy said in a news release.

The report notes that while funding has increased for climate-related research in the fields of ecology and environmental science and management, it said the cancellation of initiatives like the Climate Change and Atmospheric Research program means “crucial work in the atmospheric sciences is being neglected”.

“NSERC’s Discovery grants ensure hundreds of climate scientists in Canada can carry out research, but these grants don’t provide enough funding to form collaborative groups or carry out fieldwork in the Arctic,” said Dr. Dan Weaver, atmospheric scientist and Evidence for Democracy board member.

When asked whether government funding strategies were sufficient, 82% of respondents expressed concerns about the current funding approach. Some 86% said they want to see more funding for projects under $1 million and longer term funding, while 94% of climate scientists would like to see more funding for academic-government collaborations.

The report also acknowledged that the survey results could be biased as scientists who are concerned about their research funding are more likely to respond. As such, “the respondents’ views may not represent the entire Canadian climate science community”.


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