Climate change is having an impact on jobs in Canada, says prof

Climate change is having an increasingly significant impact on work in Canada, says York Professor Carla Lipsig-Mummé, editor of a new book on the subject – Climate@Work.

“This is the first book on Canada that takes up two questions – what is the impact of climate change on Canadian jobs and Canadian work, and what is the impact of Canadian Climate@WorkBookresponses to climate change on Canadian jobs,” says Lipsig-Mummé, director of  Work in a Warming World (W3) at York. W3 a research program that actively engages the Canadian work world in the struggle to slow global warming.

The effect climate change has, and will continue to have, on work concerns many Canadians, she says. However, this fact has not been seriously considered either in academic circles, the labour movement or by the Canadian government.

Climate@Work (Fernwood Publishing) systematically tackles the question of the impact of climate change on work and employment, and analyzes Canada’s conservative silence towards climate change and the Canadian government’s refusal to take it seriously.

“Every developed country needs a “national” climate plan. Canada doesn’t have one and is widely criticized for the damage this causes,” says Lipsig-Mummé, a professor of work and labour studies in the Department of Social Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “The federal government’s termination of the national industrial and service sector councils and its weakening of environmental protection regulation and environmental science research are disastrous for Canada’s economic resilience.”

Human activity is the major cause of global warming. Recent research has shown that in developed countries the world of work produces about 80 per cent of greenhouse gases. If work is a major producer of greenhouse gases, can the world of work – its workplaces, unions and professional associations – become major actors in slowing global warming?

The logical answer is yes. “The labour movement has a large role to play in ‘greening’ work –adapting how we work in order to mitigate the GHGs we produce,” she says. “But puzzlingly, the role of work in the struggle to control climate change has been neglected, not only in Canada, but worldwide. An ongoing conversation between specialists and CarlaLipsigMummeactivists on labour and on the environment has yet to develop. With Climate@Work, we hope to quicken the conversation.”

Carla Lipsig-Mummé

In the absence of national climate strategies, economic sectors are making strides in producing cleaner, but their strategic creativity is not getting enough publicity. Their best practices need to be shared widely.

But Lipsig-Mummé cautions about believing the hype about “green jobs”. What is needed is to “green” the work that’s done now.

Climate@Work focuses on six economic sectors: energy, construction, tourism, postal services, forestry and transportation vehicles. It examines Canada in an international context, at international agreements, and the strange absence of research on work and climate change in scholarly journals. York geography Professor Steven Tufts and Elizabeth Perry, editor of the monthly Work and Climate Change Report at York are contributors to the book.

It is a book that would appeal not only to academics and climate scientists concerned about the social dimensions of climate warming, but students, both undergraduate and graduate, policy analysts, labour market and environment practitioners, and the public.