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An Ocean-First Approach To Climate Change

Sponsored by:
Sponsored by:

Dr. Anya Waite

Chief Executive Officer & Scientific Director, Ocean Frontier Institute

Dany Dumont

Researcher,  Transforming Climate Action Research Program & Professor, Ocean Sciences, Université du Québec à Rimousk

Canada is leading ocean-climate research, emphasizing collaboration and Indigenous knowledge  to understand and protect the ocean’s crucial role in regulating our climate.

For centuries, our oceans have soaked up massive amounts of carbon dioxide — more than all rain forests combined — helping to regulate Earth’s temperature. However, recent scientific discoveries paint a concerning picture: the ocean’s ability to perform these important functions may be changing in ways we don’t fully understand. This poses a major risk to our people, environment, and economy, highlighting the urgent need to not only understand these changes but also actively protect this important climate shield. 


Canada is emerging as a leader in ocean-climate research, with organizations like the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) playing a pivotal role. OFI serves as a global hub for innovative ocean research, uniting a diverse group of researchers to tackle complex ocean challenges.

Launched in 2023, the Transforming Climate Action (TCA) research program marks a significant leap forward. Led by OFI on behalf of Dalhousie University, the program adopts a unique “ocean-first” approach by focusing on understanding the ocean’s link to climate, developing climate mitigation solutions, and supporting equitable climate adaptation.

Bridging knowledge for a sustainable future

What truly sets TCA apart is its commitment to groundbreaking research and collaboration, specifically with English and French speaking universities and Canada’s Indigenous communities. 

“Indigenous knowledge of the ocean and its ecosystems, built over generations of living in close connection with the land and sea, is invaluable,” says Dr. Anya Waite, Chief Executive Officer and Scientific Director at OFI. 

So, a collaborative approach that integrates diverse perspectives is critical.

Instead of approaching communities with preset projects and solutions, TCA prioritizes authentic dialogue and communication. This collaborative approach fosters a deeper understanding of the ocean’s role in climate change and will hopefully lead to solutions that are effective and respectful of Indigenous perspectives.

“Many Indigenous communities are on the front lines of climate change, experiencing its effects firsthand,” observes Dr. Waite. “Through collaborative dialogues, we’re exploring ways to integrate traditional ecological knowledge with Western science to design meaningful solutions.”

Including oceans in the climate dialogue

The ocean controls our climate, and its health is intricately linked to our own. “By diving deeper into the ocean’s role in regulating climate, we’re paving the way for a future where this important resource isn’t just protected, but leveraged in the fight against climate change,” says Dany Dumont, researcher on the TCA program and professor of Ocean Sciences at Université du Québec à Rimouski. 

Canada’s innovative approach serves as a powerful example of how collaboration and knowledge-sharing can be harnessed to build a more sustainable future for our planet.

“The challenges we face transcend disciplinary boundaries,” emphasizes Dr. Dumont. “So, a collaborative approach that integrates diverse perspectives is critical.”

The need for sustained ocean observation

Research under the TCA program will last between seven and eight years, which will deliver critically needed information about the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon. However, the TCA team stresses there’s also a need for long-term and sustained ocean observation.

The proposed North Atlantic Carbon Observatory (NACO) is one such example. Intended to be a permanent and integrated observing system, NACO would establish a comprehensive observation network across the North Atlantic Ocean, which plays a critical role in our climate system.

Building on the success of the TCA program, the aim of NACO is to gather crucial data on an ongoing basis to help us understand how climate change impacts carbon storage and develop effective strategies for protecting our planet, such as marine carbon dioxide removal solutions. 

While Canada has the expertise to lead these ocean-first solutions to climate change, international collaboration is critical for success. No individual nation can tackle the problem of climate change alone.   

Researchers, government officials, philanthropists, and other stakeholders are encouraged to learn more and get involved at ofi.ca.

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