Artificial Intelligence could help the world get ahead of the risks of climate change, according to three Canadian technology giants including the University of Waterloo, Microsoft Vancouver and SAP Labs Canada.

Thought leaders from across the country gathered in Microsoft’s Vancouver headquarters to discuss climate change and technology’s role in helping Canadians adapt.

Kirsten Sutton

Kirsten Sutton, vice-president and managing director of SAP Labs Canada.

“I think there’s two things that AI can provide,” said Kirsten Sutton, vice-president and managing director of SAP Labs Canada. “One is really being able to crunch tons of data and being able to get information faster than we ever have before. The second one is to be able to apply predictive models to things so that we can see ahead and get ahead of the curve.”


Mark Crowley

Mark Crowley, electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of Waterloo

“[AI] is very pivotal because we basically have to do more than we can do ourselves to make bigger and better decisions on problems outside of our own experience,” echoed Mark Crowley, electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of Waterloo. “Helping us wrangle all of the data, satellites, various information, crowd-source data, the tools of AI let you find ways to do that.”

Hosted in partnership with Microsoft and moderated by Author and Science Broadcaster Ziya Tong, the Waterloo Innovation Summit speaker series welcomed industry, government and academic leaders to discuss the role tech can play in threat mitigation, clean infrastructure, climate innovation and adaptation.

WIS panelists Ziya Tong, Jean Andrey, Mark Crowley and Kirsten Sutton

(Left to right) Ziya Tong, Jean Andrey, Mark Crowley and Kirsten Sutton.

“It’s important to have Canada’s tech leaders come together right now especially when we’re seeing growing catastrophes with climate change,” said Tong. “We can use technology to help us really adapt with the oncoming crises, and hopefully help us offset some of the greater damages that we’ll begin to see.”

The Summit echoed the importance of leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) within the scope of climate adaptation as a method of model prediction for future extreme weather events.

“Climate change is real, but not only is it real, it’s irreversible, it is here to stay,” Waterloo’s Blair Feltmate said in his opening remarks. “It’s not that we’re not moving in the right direction in reference to adapting to climate change and extreme weather risk, it’s the rate at which we’re moving.  For Canada, the trick on adaptation is to move faster.  The stress on the system is increasing very rapidly, and we’re keeping up so-so.”

Blair Feltmate

Blair Feltmate,  head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation.

With plans to continue this discussion, the University of Waterloo will take its next speaker series event to London, England in February of 2019.

“The University of Waterloo is really proud to host the Canadian chapter of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network,” said Jean Andrey, dean of the Faculty of Environment.  “This particular event is wonderful because it brings together big questions about technology and big questions about sustainability and as hosts, our job is to engage the other academics in this country and in fact, citizens at large on how to move Canada forward on sustainability and these, if they can come together, can help us solve a lot of our challenges.”

Continue following the speaker series conversation by signing up for future Summit updates.