There’s been a “deafening” silence about the future of work in a warming world, even though “consequences of global warming will shake up the nature of work and the availability of employment for people in every country,” Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé, professor of work and labour studies at York University, writes this week for The Hill Times.
“In an era of uneven globalization, the impact of global warming is affecting every region, but it is not affecting all regions in the same way,” she adds. As public opinion begins to wake up to the reality of climate change, “where is the debate about the future of work and employment? The need for jobs won’t disappear, and Canada has a lot of questions to address.”
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Lipsig-Mummé, winner of the 2018 Partnership Impact Award from Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, traces the foreseeable labour force impacts of climate change in different parts of the world—from the investment chill and weakening of workers’ rights in low-lying and coastal countries facing the risks of sea level rise, to drastic political change sweeping Europe, to a possible shift from transport and energy-intensive industries to “new and technologically reorganized sectors” in Canada.
But change is the common denominator, and Lipsig-Mummé poses two full paragraphs of emerging questions that are currently “asked only in fragmentary ways. It will take more than fragments to put the future of work on the Canadian climate agenda. Who will ask the questions publicly and democratically? Who will create a common research language among climate scientists, engineers, social scientists, and labour studies experts?”
For Canada, some of the issues include:
- Which industries will continue to provide employment, in what numbers, and in what regions;
- Which environmental industries will create new types of employment;
- How climate realities will shift domestic production, the division of labour, and corporate responsibility in overseas operations;
- Which skills will be needed, and how vulnerable populations will find the right training;
- How post-secondary institutions will respond;
- What “worker citizenship” looks like in a transformed workplace.
“If we begin now to ask these questions and engage the public actively in finding answers, we have a fighting chance to construct a fairer work world in the near future,” Lipsig-Mummé writes. She calls on climate scientists to work alongside engineers, social scientists, and workplace specialists to “define the questions and link research to action.”