Linda Mortsch, Robert McLeman  and Luna Khirfan are University of Waterloo Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3) members and lead authors in the recently published  Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth major assessment. The findings of this assessment on the science of climate change are clear — urgent action is required to deal with the increasing risks of a warming planet. This means that adaptation measures must be scaled up rapidly and substantially if current and future health impacts from climate change are to be reduced. Moreover, decision makers must pursue adaptation actions that are inclusive and equitable, and consider the needs of racialized, marginalized and low-income populations.  

This feels like a big task, and it is, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. So, we asked McLeman , Khirfan and Mortsch, do you have hope that we can address the climate crisis? Here’s what they had to say.  

“We should definitely have hope,” said McLeman, professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, “because our chapter, and this report as a whole, demonstrates that, although the risks of climate change for our collective wellbeing are tremendous, there are real and effective pathways for making our communities and our health systems more resilient. Many of the actions we can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as investing in public transportation, stopping the use of coal, and making our cities more forested and walkable, also have direct human health benefits. However, a climate-resilient future hinges on making concerted efforts now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and commit ourselves to sustainable development, and my hope is that this report helps stimulate such action.” 

Khirfan, professor at the School of Planning added,“A lot inspires me. Without inspiration, there is no hope and no creativity. My interactions with my students are my primary source of inspiration. In my students I see resilience and resolve combined with creativity to overcome future challenges. I also find inspiration from the genuine interest and care of people from all walks of life who are concerned about climate change. In their question 'what can I do?' I see genuine interest in being proactive when it comes to climate change. My research took me to many parts of the world, to different countries and cultures, and this question “what can I do?” is the common denominator. It is what unites us all, as ordinary human beings inhabiting this Planet and it gives me inspiration to continue through my research to finds ways to help us adapt to climate change.” 

Finally, Mortsch, professor with the Faculty of Environment and retired senior researcher with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said candidly, “Sometimes I become impatient and want more urgency in action, but I also recognize that the path to address climate change and the transformational changes required don’t come easily or quickly. With complex issues such as climate change, one must remain optimistic and think long-term because that is what is required to find solutions and move towards action. I have been addressing/working on this issue since 1988. Looking back, we have made exceptional progress on the science, making people aware, and developing mitigation and adaptation solutions. Looking forward, I see how youth are vocally and assertively taking up the challenge and how Indigenous Peoples’ cultural ethic, knowledge, and leadership are directed at addressing climate change.  In communities, people ⁠— citizens, planners, land managers, engineers, researchers, ecologists, and Indigenous Peoples ⁠— are collaborating and co-creating solutions. They are wrestling with the challenge of implementing adaptation and mitigation solutions and together we can take those critical next steps to achieve our long-term goals.” 

In sharing McLeman , Khirfan and Mortsch’s sources of inspiration, we hope it will help you reflect on your sustainability commitments and knowledge, as well as endeavor to continue and expand your efforts and encourage others to do the same.  

For more insights from these climate change experts, check out:  

Need a little further inspiration? Join leading climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe, and IC3 Executive Director, Sarah Burch, for a conversation on Hope & Climate Change. They will discuss strategies for scaling up individual and collective climate action, and how to navigate difficult conversations about our changing planet. They’ll also address your most pressing questions and weigh in on what we’re all wondering – is there hope? We hope to see you there. Happy Earth Day.

Photo taken at the 2019 fall climate rally, University of Waterloo