By Marie-Claude Brandys

A comprehensive survey on the state of science offers important insights that are worth considering when it comes to climate action in Canada.

An overwhelming three quarters of Canadians (75 per cent) believe that climate change is one of the biggest threats to humankind, according to the 2024 3M State of Science Index. An even higher percentage of Canadians (81 per cent) believe that science can play a pivotal role in combating climate change.

This belief that climate solutions are grounded in science is encouraging. A widespread recognition of the important role that science has in our lives is what enables innovative solutions that help preserve our planet for future generations. Science can help build a brighter future and held solve some of our greatest challenges.

The State of Science Index also showed that in addition to science being a fundamental part of how we address urgent issues like climate change, Canadians believe it will shape the future of work, and foster growth in STEM careers and green jobs – all essential components of a sustainable future.

Complexities of climate change 

Climate change is a complex issue impacting Canada and beyond in a variety of ways – and most acknowledge it must be addressed with urgency.

Nearly half of Canadians (43 per cent) report they’ve already been impacted by climate change, with an additional 22 per cent believing their community will be impacted within the next five to 10 years. Extreme water events (46 per cent), lack of clean water (32 per cent), poor air quality (30 per cent) and climate change related health issues (28 per cent) are among the top concerns.

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We’re also seeing Canadian consumers personally committing to a more sustainable future, with more than half (57 per cent) of consumers actively seeking out businesses that have a sustainability mission. Canadians also believe companies need to be more committed to using sustainable materials (82 per cent), and they demand transparency from companies that claim sustainable commitments (74 per cent).

Sustainable skills and green jobs 

While issues like the effects of climate change and developing new, sustainable processes are complex, I believe they have solutions that are rooted in science. It’s not surprising that the green consumer shift is also driving a green workforce shift.

While the threats of climate change can contribute to a sense of anxiety, the growth of green jobs can offer a sense of relief. They bring about a tangible way to benefit the planet, people and economic growth.

Defined as jobs that contribute to preserving or restoring the environment, 74 per cent of Canadians expect the green jobs market to grow significantly in the next five years, with 72 per cent who say that green jobs are crucial to addressing climate change.

We can expect to see promising collaboration in the expansion of Canada’s green workforce. It’s an area where science, education, public and private sectors can work together for the common good of the planet.

In fact, many Canadians believe the green workforce must be supported by both the public and private sectors, with 58 per cent saying they believe the government has an interest in promoting green jobs. Most exciting to me is that more than half (56 per cent) would like to learn green skills that would help them obtain a green job, with 71 per cent who say that green jobs provide exciting new opportunities for work.

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 STEM diversity will contribute to the solution

When I look at the fields in STEM, both in Canada and globally, I’d argue that not only do we need more talent, but increasing diversity in those fields is just as essential.

As part of 3M’s commitment to supporting groups that have been historically underrepresented in the scientific fields, we launched the 25 Women in Science program in Canada this year.

In its inaugural year in Canada, three Canadian women are being recognized for their work in the area of sustainability. One is a chemist diverting sea waste by finding new commercial uses for it, and the other two are environmental engineers working on projects to protect drinking water through sustainable technologies and make wastewater into something more valuable, respectively.

It’s an important reminder that science thrives on diversity. To solve the real environmental challenges Canadians are facing, scientists of all kinds must come together.

Climate change is a complex challenge requiring innovative solutions created by diverse teams and rooted in science. Sustainable operation improvements, achieving carbon neutrality and leveraging renewable energy sources will build a better tomorrow.

Marie-Claude Brandys holds a PhD in Chemistry, is the area leader for the 3M Product Stewardship Center of Excellence and the managing director of 3M Canada.

Featured image credit: Getty Images

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