1) Why are the chapters structured around key messages?
Through consultation with the Advisory Committee and coordinating lead authors for the National Issues and Regional Perspectives reports, we decided to use a key message approach to structure the content of the chapters. Each chapter features 5–8 key messages on key issues within the given sector or region that reflect the priorities of stakeholders and partners, as identified through engagement and outreach activities. As such, rather than assessing all relevant issues, the chapters are able to go into greater depth on the identified priority issues. This approach allows readers to focus on targeted sections within chapters that are most relevant for their needs.
2) How has the current national assessment incorporated Indigenous Knowledge?
The current national assessment has taken meaningful steps to better incorporate Indigenous Knowledge into the process and reports. For example, early in the process, Advisory Committee members from the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) developed a guidance report for all authors, which provided 5 guiding principles and 8 recommended actions for incorporating Indigenous Knowledge into assessment products.
Most of the chapters within the Regional Perspectives and National Issues reports include a key message focused on Indigenous Knowledge and/or case stories that focus on Indigenous themes related to climate change impacts and adaptation. In addition, there will be a stand-alone Indigenous Resilience Report, which is currently being drafted by an Indigenous author team, and targeted for release in 2022.
The external review process involved reviewers who are either from Indigenous communities or organizations, and/or who have expertise related to Indigenous themes. The Secretariat also worked closely with colleagues from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada through the assessment technical committee.
3) What are national assessments and how are they used?
National assessments are a process whereby experts from a range of different sectors collaborate to assess and synthesize the latest literature and knowledge on climate change science, impacts and adaptation. Findings from national assessments are used to help inform decision-making and action to reduce the impacts of climate change by making credible knowledge readily available and usable. While they guide and inform action, they are not policy prescriptive. Assessments can range from the international scale (e.g., the Intergovernmental Governmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC Assessment Reports) to the national or sub-national scale. Canada has undertaken numerous national assessments since 1998, including on specific sectors or regions (see previous assessment reports).
To better understand who uses the assessments, their information needs and how they use the reports in practice, we undertook a survey in 2019. More than 1100 responses were received, including from all provinces and territories. Key findings from the survey include:
- Assessment users work in a wide range of sectors, including different levels of government, academic institutions, NGOs, private sector, Indigenous organizations, industrial and professional associations, etc.;
- Approximately 45% of respondents indicated that climate change adaptation is part of their current work responsibilities;
- The top three types of information that users are looking for in Canada in a Changing Climate products include: 1) Concise summaries on specific topics, 2) case studies and examples of adaptation in practice and 3) information specific to their region or sector; and
- The top three reasons that users need information on climate change impacts and adaptation is to: 1) raise awareness about impacts and the need to adapt, 2) inform new projects, programs or policy approaches and 3) justify recommendations and initiatives. Other key uses include for educational purposes and to inform research, reports or assessments.
4) Who is involved in the national assessment process?
The Assessment Secretariat is housed within the Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Division (CCIAD) at Natural Resources Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. This small team coordinates the assessment process and the many steps involved in preparing and releasing assessment products. This includes chairing the Assessment Advisory Committee, engaging with the Coordinating Lead Authors for the National Issues and Regional Perspectives reports, collaborating with the lead departments for the other assessment reports featured in the Canada in a Changing Climate series, scientific editing of assessment chapters, working with contractors and supporting the release of final products among target audiences. Meet the Assessment Secretariat.
Assessment Advisory Committee
The Assessment Advisory Committee for the National Issues and Regional Perspectives reports provides advice and input throughout the assessment process to inform the goals, scope, development and strategic release of assessment products. The committee includes 19 members from governments, academic institutions, Indigenous organizations, non-governmental organizations and industry, and represents all regions in Canada. Members are subject-matter experts and assessment users who are knowledgeable on climate change impacts and adaptation issues. Members participate in their personal capacity as experts in their field and not as representatives of their host organization. Meet the Assessment Advisory Committee.
Coordinating lead authors
The Secretariat works with the Assessment Advisory Committee to identify potential authors, then invites coordinating lead authors (CLAs) to participate in the process based on their expertise in the subject area, skills in leading collaborative writing initiatives and availability. CLAs are responsible for the overall delivery and quality of their chapter. This involves coordinating the process for identifying and selecting key messages, and ensuring that the writing team includes the appropriate expertise and that the chapter meets the guidelines provided by the Assessment Secretariat. Coordinating lead authors are also responsible for addressing and/or responding to the comments provided through the external review process. Meet the Coordinating Lead Authors of the National Issues and Regional Perspectives reports.
Each chapter of the National Issues and Regional Perspectives report goes through an external review process to validate the key messages and chapter content, to identify any inconsistencies and to suggest any critical references that should be included. External reviewers include a mix of invited experts in the particular sector or region and individuals with relevant expertise who self-register. The external review process is critical to ensuring a rigorous and credible process, and enhances the overall quality of the assessment products.
The Assessment Secretariat shared a post-review survey with external reviewers to better understand the profile of reviewers and to collect feedback that will help to improve the review process for future assessments. Key findings from the survey show that:
- Reviewers represent a wide range of sectors, including different levels of government, universities or research institutes, NGOs, private sector or consultants and Indigenous organizations,;
- Reviewers have significant experience working on climate change adaptation: 35% of respondents have over 10 years experience, 27% have 5-9 years of experience and 30% have 1-4 years of experience;
- Over 84% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the chapter they reviewed referenced the latest knowledge related to that particular topic or region; and
- Over 70% of respondents indicated that would be willing to be a reviewer again for future assessment products.
Assessment users provide input into the assessment process in various ways, including through online surveys and in providing feedback during targeted engagement activities and conference sessions. For example, the Assessment Secretariat led an online survey open to the public early in the current process to compile a series of frequently asked questions, which were then shared with coordinating lead authors to consider while preparing chapter content. A number of conference sessions were organized involving members of the Assessment Secretariat, the Assessment Advisory Committee and/or coordinating lead authors during the chapter development phase, where session participants had the opportunity to provide feedback on key messages. An initiative to engage youth in the assessment process was piloted with students studying climate change at the University of Waterloo, giving them an opportunity to contribute to chapter writing. These activities have helped to broaden public participation in the assessment process, while raising awareness among potential new assessment users.
5) What is the scope of the current national assessment?
The National Issues and Regional Perspectives reports assess and synthesize existing knowledge on climate change impacts and adaptation from a wide range of sources—peer-reviewed literature, broader literature, practitioner perspectives, and Indigenous and local knowledge. The assessment process does not involve any original research.
Due to the lengthy production timeline and the number of steps involved in the finalization of chapters, the Assessment Secretariat requires that no new content be added after the post-external review draft is submitted. As such, there may be cases where a published chapter does not reference key literature that was made available in the weeks and months immediately preceding publication.
National Issues and Regional Perspectives
Natural Resources Canada leads the National Issues and the Regional Perspective Reports:
- The National Issues Report provides a national perspective on how climate change is impacting our communities, environment and economy, and how we are adapting to reduce risks. The chapters focus on themes of national importance that benefit from an integrated, cross-Canada perspective.
- The Regional Perspectives Report provides regional perspectives on how climate change is impacting our communities, environment and economy, and how the regions are adapting to reduce risks.
Both reports discuss key vulnerabilities, risks and challenges; case stories that feature examples of adaptation in practice; new and innovative approaches to adaptation; Indigenous knowledge and perspectives; capacity to adapt to climate change, and knowledge gaps and emerging issues. In some cases, they also provide additional background context to enhance understanding of the issues discussed.
6) How is the current national assessment different from earlier assessments?
There are several key differences between the current national assessment and previous assessments led by Natural Resources Canada.
- Greater focus on broader sources of knowledge: the assessment products strive to better incorporate a broader range of knowledge, by assessing and synthesizing peer-reviewed publications, other relevant reports, practitioner perspectives, and Indigenous and local knowledge (see FAQ #2).
- Use of a “key messages” approach: Rather than assessing all potential issues, the chapters in the National Issues and Regional Perspectives reports are structured around key messages to reflect key priorities in the sector or region (see FAQ #1).
- Setting benchmarks: Each writing team was tasked with specifically identifying emerging issues and knowledge gaps in their chapter. This will help set a benchmark from which to measure progress in future assessments and inform other work.
- Enhanced engagement throughout the process: The current national assessment has sought stronger external engagement throughout the process, including through the Assessment Advisory Committee, author teams, external reviewers and assessment users. This approach has broadened the incorporation of different types of expertise and perspectives in the process, and is helping to ensure that the assessment products better meet the needs of assessment users (see FAQ #4).
- Digital delivery-first approach: To make the assessment products more readily available, accessible and navigable by users, all of the reports in the Canada in a Changing Climate series are being delivered digitally on changingclimate.ca. This digital platform allows users to easily navigate the chapters and reports, to find content that is relevant for their specific needs and to share content through social media. The digital approach to delivery is helping to make the assessment products available to a wide range of users in different sectors, with the goal of accelerating evidence-informed decision-making on climate change impacts and adaptation.