Work in a Warming World

AUT’s New Zealand Tourism Research Institute (NZTRI) is working with universities around the world, including York University in Canada, as part of an international project to study the impact of climate change on employment. The project, which has received $1 million in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), looks at the challenge climate change presents to Canadian employment and workplaces. The NZTRI is involved with the tourism dimensions of the project and will act as an external international advisor, adding insights from the Pacific/New Zealand where appropriate. The research team involved in the project includes a total of 23 researchers, 20 partners and 10 universities across three countries. AUT is the only New Zealand university involved in the project.


Context: Global climate change may be on everyone’s lips, but the silence about its impact on the world of work is deafening. Climate change is already shaking up the nature of work and the distribution of employment within and between countries, regions and communities, dislocating people and industries and communities. In Canada, key economic sectors are affected directly by climate change, or indirectly by measures to mitigate its effects, and by the emergence of green technologies. New occupations and professions are springing up and the possibility of new ways of working are crystallizing.


Yet here is the puzzle: Despite the growing concern about environmental sustainability in Canada, research on the implications of climate change for employment and work and its flow-on impact on education and training, public investment, infrastructure and regulation, has scarcely begun. Workplaces of every size and type—from farms to mines to factories to offices to stores to schools to hospitals to home offices—are both significant producers of greenhouse gas emissions, and potentially powerful actors in containing global warming.


The central research question is this: How can institutions of work adapt more effectively, and contribute more fully, to the struggle to contain global warming? How will the institutions of work be required to change in the face of climate change?


The Work in a Warming World research programme has four goals:

• Map and evaluate how well labour market organizations are assessing and responding to the impact of climate change on work and employment in their sectors.

• Engage community partners specialising in training, environmental advocacy and work organization in identifying critical spaces for the adaptation of work and employment.

• Turn research into solutions for practical problems, on three levels: linking environment and employment policy; developing and introducing environmentally responsible employment and work practices; greening curriculum at all levels and broadening the environmental focus of active labour market transitions.

• Train a generation of researchers in the social dimensions of climate change. In service to these goals, we are developing an ongoing dialogue between climate scientists, workplace organizations and academic researchers in the social and environmental sciences, and law.


University Partners:

AUT University

Institute of Land and Food Resources, University of Melbourne

Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability, YorkUniversity

Queen's University

Ryerson University

Simon FraserUniversity

St. Thomas University

University of British Columbia-Okenagan

University of Manitoba

University of Toronto


Project Partners:

British Columbia Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Canadian Steel Trade and Employment Congress

Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Centre for Labour Studies

Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union

Environmental Defence

Forest Products Sector Council

Learning for a Sustainable Future

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy

National Union of Professional and General Employees

Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy/Professional Engineers

Prism Economics and Analysis

The Clean Air Partnership

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

Toronto Training Board

United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Local 1000A

United Steelworkers of Canada


Wood Manufacturing Council


SSHRC is an independent federal government agency that funds university-based research and graduate training through national peer-review competitions. SSHRC also partners with public- and private-sector organizations to focus research and aid the development of better policies and practices in key areas of Canada’s social, cultural and economic life.

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