skip to Main Content


Dr. Sarah Burch holds a Canada Research Chair in Sustainability Governance and Innovation, and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Canada. She is a member of the Earth System Governance Scientific Steering Committee.

She is an expert in transformative responses to climate change at the community scale, innovative strategies for making progress on sustainability, and the unique contributions that small businesses can make to this solving this complex challenge. She leads the international partnership-based research project TRANSFORM: Accelerating sustainability entrepreneurship experiments in local spaces, and is the Director of the Sustainability Policy Research on Urban Transformations (SPROUT) Lab.

Dr. Burch holds a PhD from the University of British Columbia, and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Oxford. She is currently a Lead Author of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007). She was elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars in 2017 and was named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40TM in 2018.

Her most recent book is entitled ‘Understanding Climate Change: Science, Policy and Practice,’ and she has taught the first Massive Open Online Course on climate change, which reached thousands over students in over 130 countries.

Recent publications:

  • Westman, L., S. Burch, and J. McKenzie. In press. Political participation of businesses: a framework to understand contributions of SMEs to urban sustainability politics. Earth System Governance.
  • Burch, S., A. Gupta, C. Inoue, A. Kalfagianni, Å. Persson, A. Gerlak, A. Ishii, J. Patterson, J. Pickering, M. Scobie, J. Van der Heijden, J. Vervoort, C. Adler, M. Bloomfield, R. Djalante, J. Dryzek, V. Galaz, C. Gordon, R. Zondervan. 2019. New directions in Earth System Governance research. Earth System Governance 1: 100006.
  • Biermann, F., M. Betstill, S. Burch, C. Gordon, A. Gupta, C. Inoue, A. Kalfagianni, N. Kanie, Å. Persson, H. Schroeder, M. Scobie, R. Zondervan. 2019. The Governance of Earth System Governance Research: A Critical Assessment of Global Research Networking. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 39:17-23.
  • Dale, A., J. Robinson, L. King, R. Newell, S. Burch, F. Jost, A. Shaw, and A. Moore. 2019. Meeting the climate change challenge: local government climate change action in British Columbia, Canada. Climate Policy 1-15.
  • Westman, L., C. Luederitz, A. Kundurpi, A. Mercado, O. Weber, and S. Burch. 2019. Sustainability transitions through bottom-up dynamics: reconceptualizing SMEs from the perspective of social practices. Business Strategy and the Environment 28:388-402.
  • Rosenbloom, D., J. Meadowcroft, S. Sheppard, S. Burch, S. Williams. (2018) Transition experiments: Opening up low-carbon transition pathways for Canada through innovation and learning. Canadian Public Policy 44(4).
  • Romero-Lankao, P. Harriett Bulkeley, Mark Pelling, Sarah Burch, David Gordon, Craig Johnson, Priya Kurian, Emma Lecavalier, Debashish Munshi, David Simon, Laura Tozel, and Gina Ziervogel. Urban Transformative Responses in a Changing Climate: Towards A Critical Social Science Agenda. 2018.
  • Nature Climate Change 8(9): 754. Patterson, J., T. Thaler, M. Hoffman, S. Hughes, A. Oels, E. Chu, A. Mert, D. Huitema, S. Burch, A. Jordan. 2018. Political feasibility of 1.5°C societal transformations: the role of social justice. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 31:1-9.
  • Burch, S., C. Mitchell, M. Berbes-Blazquez, J. Wandel and E. Jackson. 2017. Donor-driven community-based climate change adaptation research in developing countries: Progress, patterns, and potential. Journal of Extreme Events.
  • Berbes-Blazquez, M., M. Mitchell, S. Burch, J. Wandel. 2017. A framework for integrating and assessing the resilience of climate change adaptation options in resource-dependent communities. Climatic Change 141:227. doi:10.1007/s10584-017-1897-0

Related people