Photograph - Sky and Mountains

How CCIRC Came to Be

In the summer 2008 a group of 15 SFU researchers received funding from the Community Trust Endowment Fund (CTEF) administered by the Vice President of Research at SFU to conduct a five-year research program entitled "Secondary Effects of Climate Change on Human and Ecosystem Health: A Risk-Based Approach."

The research team’s expertise spans the physical, biological, health and social sciences, resource and environmental management, communication, and computing science. To find out more about our team, click here.

Why a Risk-Based Approach?

Measuring and communicating risk is one of the most challenging aspects of climate change research due to the level of uncertainty in climate change predictions, the range of possible impacts, and the high degree of complexity of the systems that might be affected.

Risk Assessment Framework

One of our first tasks is the development of an effective and consistent risk assessment framework. Our framework will enable us to:

  • better understand sources of uncertainties and risks
  • improve methods to estimate risks, and
  • improve methods to manage risks.

Our strategies to meet the above objectives include research projects, comparisons of research and methodologies, and the development and application of visualization methods to improve communications to audience groups ranging from researchers to decision-makers and the general public.


CCIRC is a group of researchers investigating impacts of climate change on our environment, our economy, our health and our quality of life. Our work focuses on some of the many indirect impacts that have yet to receive adequate attention. We will identify and study some of these far-reaching impacts of global warming.

Why Study the Secondary Effects
of Climate Change?

Climate change is predicted to have significant direct impacts on air temperature and precipitation in terms of long-term trends, seasonality, and occurrence of extreme events. Such changes are anticipated to have primary impacts such as melting glaciers, sea-level change and air quality fluctuation. As a consequence there are numerous secondary impacts on health for humans and for ecosystems.

Primary climate-change impacts have been investigated by researchers around the world, but relatively few studies have considered secondary effects of these impacts or adaptation responses, particularly in terms of the potential spread of infectious diseases, quantity of water available, degradation of water quality due to contamination, and loss of biodiversity, which is important for maintaining resilient and functioning ecosystems in the presence of changes.

Among the many secondary changes anticipated are major shifts in species distributions and ecosystems, and potentially widespread human population shifts. These secondary effects raise questions about how existing human infrastructure such as health-care systems, and water storage and delivery systems will be able to support growing urban populations.

By collecting data, modeling scenarios, and communicating the results of our research, we aim to further climate change science and risk management capabilities. A key problem arising from this process is how to effectively communicate possible outcomes and levels of risk. By working together, we are able to collaborate on this problem while sharing other aspects of our research.

Research Program Goals

Building on previous research, the team will investigate the secondary effects of climate change on human health and ecosystem health.
We will go further by using risk-assessment approaches to evaluate various options for dealing with the problems arising from climate change.

Our goals are to:

  • improve the reliability of risk assessments associated with climate change impacts on human health and on the environment;
  • improve understanding of those risks in order to reduce their impacts by identifying causal mechanisms and mitigation measures; and
  • assist stakeholders and decision-makers in using results of risk assessments for better risk management.

To support our main program goals, we will develop novel computer visualization techniques that will strengthen two key aspects of research: improved understanding of the issues and risks involved will enable the use of our results by policy-makers, other stakeholders and the public; and novel visualization tools will improve the workflow of our scientists enabling them to comprehend large, complicated sets of data and to identify possible relations between them.