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change in canada

Future Scenarios


In the wake of the 2018 IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C, the imperative for acting on climate change has never been stronger. The potential exists to galvanize climate action at all levels of Canadian society. Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson noted, “[b]ig cities have taken a leadership role by implementing practical environmental initiatives...We need other governments around the world to make similar commitments towards increasing energy efficiency, reducing reliance on non-renewable energy, and thereby reducing our greenhouse gas footprint.” (July 2015 Big City Mayors’ Caucus). The time is ripe for the federal government to step up and stimulate ‘changes’ to move Canada towards a low-carbon economy and sustainable society; however, this begs the question:

What kind of changes are necessary?

explore future scenarios

We have prepared three scenarios that depict likely outcomes from different development paths, based on degrees of institutional and social change explored through the Meeting the Climate Change Challenge (MC3) project. The scenarios capture different ways our institutions, communities and societies could develop and operate in the face of global climate change.

Incremental change – Small steps towards climate action that are ‘politically safe’, such as focusing on energy efficiency measures. These changes do not call into question our current approaches to natural resource development, socio-political arrangements, economy and existing infrastructure.

Reformative change – Actions that require bold technological and social innovation supported by significant government leadership and incentives, which lead us toward a low or carbon neutral economy. These changes involve reform of the dominant socio-political systems and major reform of infrastructure (e.g., district energy systems, decentralization of the grid).

Transformative change – A fundamental shift in governance and socio-political systems, resulting in a carbon restorative economy (i.e., net return of carbon from the atmosphere to the biosphere).