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Strategic Initiatives to Meet Complex Challenges: Our Future Direction

Environmental & Energy

The effects of climate change are altering the landscape as we know it. The devastating impact can be seen everywhere—on human health, ecosystems, economies, our natural resources, the ways we live and work, and, ultimately, the future of our planet.

How can we ensure the safety of the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe? How can we preserve the health of our lakes and rivers for future generations? How do we work with Indigenous communities to address issues of water security? How can big cities manage traffic congestion and urban sprawl? Can we lower the cost of environmentally friendly products to make them more widely affordable? How can we change behaviour to make communities and citizens more environmentally responsible? How can businesses stay lean in the face of the pressure to be green? How do financial markets provide the funds to ensure that green strategies are rewarded?

These are just a few of the big questions that researchers at McMaster are tackling as they focus—across sectors and disciplines, and at many levels (villages, communities, cities, and nations)—on innovative solutions to address water crises, environmental change, and develop clean technologies.

We have already made significant strides. We’ve devised strategies to protect and restore forests and wetlands, and developed new technologies to detect and reverse water contamination. Through our work in photovoltaics, we’re turning the sun’s rays into electricity and helping Canada develop a solar industry.

Since complex challenges require a multi-faceted approach, our researchers are active in collaborative networks locally, nationally, and globally that bring innovators and policymakers together to forge solutions with real impact. From the Dofasco Centre for Engineering and Public Policy to FloodNet and the Centre for Climate Change, an NSERC Canadian Strategic Network based at McMaster, to the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, and the Global Water Futures Program, McMaster researchers are engaged in both the technical and policy aspects of Great Lakes cleanup, flood forecasting and management, and the global water crisis.

Interest in clean energy sources has also led to a resurgence of interest in nuclear power as a means to generate electricity, and in this, we are aided by having the most powerful research reactor at any Canadian university, where our researchers are looking at nuclear safety and radioactive waste management. The reactor also provides isotopes that allow researchers to detect key nutrients in crops—improving agricultural productivity and food security in an era of climate change.

Our unique facilities have opened up an exciting world of opportunities for our environmental researchers and are enabling them to carve out a more optimistic vision for our planet.