Climate Change Section

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IAIA Section:  Climate Change

The goal of this Section is to provide a coordinated, international platform for IA practitioners to exchange expertise and knowledge on climate change across all areas of IA, and to enable outreach to climate change experts outside of the IA community.

Co-Chairs:  Arend Kolhoff, Wes Fisher, Ana Maria Quintero


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Is it time to retire ‘climate change’ for ‘climate crisis’?

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Discussion started by Ross Marshall 7 months ago

See the entire article at

I spent a lot of time reflecting on this article and how the emotive language surrounding climate change and other environmental topics is being altered more and more within media reports. 

In respect of IAIA and the global IA community, what struck me most was not the language we use in EIS or Environmental Reports but whether our own behaviours as a professional community has failed to alert others to the significance of what our words are conveying.  If it takes a 16 year old Swedish student two years to activate the global population on the crisis we face regarding carbon emissions, then it is only fair that we hold up a mirror to our own activities and ask ourselves - 'What have we been doing individually and collectively for the last 3 decades in comparison?'     

Whilst not advocating the use of such emotive language in our work or debates with society, perhaps our resolve to lead on climate change in our work, how we communicate or emphasis our views within the institutions we support, and how we could have placed greater emphasis on challenging substandard polies, plans and programmes now needs greater consideration and part of a more general debate on professional leadership traits within our standards of conduct. 

If we as IA professionals agree it is a global crisis, then surely the first steps for IAIA and the IA community in general is for others to see that we are treating it as a crisis in our work and words.  I would value your insights, views and feedback?

6 Replies
Reply posted by Gunnar Baldwin 6 months ago

Good morning, Philip

Thank you for this information-that is certainly disappointing.  I will not look to that initiative as bearing fruit any time soon and will cross my fingers regarding the election.


Reply posted by Philip Byer 6 months ago

Gunnar,  While the discussion paper you mentioned raises important issues, the "strategic assessment" is not what many of us in Canada had hoped.  First, based on the terms of reference it is not what IA practioners would call the strategic assessment - instead, it talks about developing guidance for what proponents should address in a project EA; and second, the work is behind schedule and with a federal election coming up, it is doubtful that anything will be produced before then, and if a new government is elected, then the whole thing will be stopped.

Reply posted by Gunnar Baldwin 6 months ago

Hi Ross,

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has posted a thought-provoking and concise new discussion paper: " Developing a Strategic Assessment of Climate Change". My apologies if a member of the Climate Group has already posted this. It directly addresses the incorporation of climate change cosiderations into the impact assessment discipline while soliciting further dialogue on this issue. The discussion paper can be downloaded at


Reply posted by Weston Fisher 7 months ago

Dear Ross,

Thanks for adding you voice to those who believe IAIA has a responsibility to more actively support sound decision-making to sustain our common future and also help guard against inadequate policies, program and standards,  I think we can expect the IAIA Board to address the issue of greater IAIA engagement as part of their new Strategic Plan, through significant actions over the next year.

I believe many IA practitioners broad sectoral understanding of environmental and social systems place them in a unique postion to advise on, and help support, sound decison-making to sustain our common future.  I'd like to see this advice translated into both law and the kind of voluntary behavioral changes Terry mentions.  For example, I'm heartened by the recent adoption of climate pricing programs at national, state and local levels around the world as a means to reduce carbon impacts, mitigate against climate change, and to help alter our collective behavior as consumers of carbon based fuels. See 

All the best,

Wes in Boston

Reply posted by Terry Calmeyer 7 months ago

Hi Ross, 

I believe that, beyond our words, influence and work, we also have a personal individual responsibility to live what we understand and preach?  Flying from all over the world to an international conference every year where we mostly consume animal based food etc, as examples, are perhaps not serious response to the crisis?

The link to your article did not work for me?  Is there another way to access it?  Could you perhaps e-mail it to me (

Many thanks!



Reply posted by Patrick Duffy 7 months ago

Dear Ross, 

Thank you for this wake up call. Of course we have to do this.The term "climate change" will continue to be understood and used to convey the phenomenon with its alarming statistics and graphs.

"Climate crisis" conveys the sense of threat and the desparate call for action. After working for some 60 years on the two questions "What is climate change ?" and  "How can we adapt to climate change ?" I am increasingly of the mind that we need an expresssion/term that clearly lays it on the line to ACT NOW.               

While I see this through the lens of cause and effect in forestry and agriculture, my work with pipelines and permafrost in the North, and with shifts in frost free seasons in Ontario, it`s the nagging quesition -- "how can we kick start a collective movement to tackle this threat ?" 

"Climate crisis" helps with the kick start thinking. Thank you, Ross.

Patrick Duffy in Vancouver, Canada


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