The Climate Commons brings together faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students at Carleton University to discuss climate change issues in relation to the humanities and social sciences and to share academic work, teaching tips, ideas, articles, and actions.

In 1988, the scientist, James Hansen, outlined to US Congress the threat to the world posed by anthropogenic climate change and called for immediate action. His warning was worrying to the public and widely reported. But global carbon emissions continued to rise. The message was repeated and amplified. Still, global carbon emissions continued to rise. Now there is a chorus of voices and movements united in the effort to compel decisive climate action. And still global carbon emissions continue to rise. These facts prompted us to start the Carleton Climate Commons in 2014.

The university has long been the place our society carves out for addressing issues of vital importance to all of society. Climate change is one of those issues. And yet in our increasingly specialized world, the solution to climate change is often perceived to come from science or government or some combination of the two. We think the humanities and social sciences have a role to play here too. The Climate Commons is a forum for exploring, amplifying, and acting on that role.

Our goal is to address the climate crisis with all the skills, resources, and energy that a university enables. At the same time, we include the public in this conversation. We bring together researchers, teachers, students, and the Ottawa community to ask what we can do together to advance climate action. Too often university researchers and teachers are isolated from one another. They don’t share and discuss common projects across departmental lines. Similarly, the university is too often isolated from the broader public.

While the Climate Commons is impactful for members of both the Carleton and broader communities, it also provides a unique experiential learning opportunity for students to engage and help facilitate important discussions around the climate crisis. Funds raised would help advance our mission by supporting graduate and undergraduate students in the work they do with us, which has been essential to our success. They’re involved in every aspect of our functioning.

While most students are volunteer members of the organization, our events only work when a few students have dedicated and established roles for which they are responsible. We hire one graduate student to oversee our Newsletter and our weekly Teach-In series, Noons for Now (this involves liaising with speakers, moderating sessions, setting up the Zoom events, booking rooms for the in-person events, and compiling the resource list). To expand on opportunities available to students, we also hire two undergraduate students, one of whom assists the graduate student, and the other of whom is our social media coordinator.