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Geography & Environmental Studies Subject Guide: Recommended Websites

Recommended Websites

Environmental Data & Statistics:

Canadian: -  Portal produced by leading climate organizations and supported by the Government of Canada and others. Provides historical and projected climate data in easy to use formats and visualizations for any location in Canada. 

Canadian Centre for Climate Services. - Funded by the Canadian government, this site provides access to climate change information including basics, datasets, maps and tools, and experts provide assistance in interpreting and using the information for climate change adaptation.

Canadian Energy Information Portal. - Combines energy data from Statistics Canada, Canada Energy Regulator, Natural Resources Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Canadian Environmental  Sustainability Indicators (CESI). - Information on key environmental sustainability indicators including air quality, water quality and availability, habitat, waste, climate indicators, etc.

Canadian Soil Information Service. - The national archive for soil and land resource information in Canada. Spatial datasets provide information on ecological groupings, soil properties and distribution.

Environment Canada Climate Data. - Includes current and historical data, climate summaries, links to many related resources such as the Canadian Wind Energy Atlas, Canadian Ice Service, mapping and modelling sites, etc.

Energy Statistics Handbook. Statistics Canada. - Provides current monthly, and historical annual energy data covering the last 12 years. A  comprehensive source of detailed information showing the availability, production and use of energy in Canada. Discontinued in 2012.

Human Activity and the Environment. Statistics Canada. - An annual publication that focuses on a current environmental issue. The latest information and statistics are gathered from many sources to produce an in-depth analytical article. Detailed statistical compendium discontinued in 2010.

National Forestry Database. By the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. - The Canadian Forest Service (CFS) at Natural Resources Canada, which developed and maintains the database, has responsibility for disseminating national forestry statistics. Most of the data are provided by the provincial or territorial resource management organizations.

National Pollutant Release Inventory.  Canada’s public inventory of pollutant releases, disposals and transfers.

Ocean Networks Canada - The University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada monitors the west and east coasts of Canada and the Arctic to continuously deliver data in real-time for scientific research that helps communities, governments and industry make informed decisions. Oceanographic data includes video and hydrophone recordings and more.

Statistics Canada - The website can be searched by keyword, or browsed by subject: Enivronment, Energy, etc, or see the annual Environment Accounts and Statistics Product Catalogue.

See also sites listed under Clarification -- Facts & Figures tab in the Climate Change Policy Research Guide.


Climate Change Knowledge Portal by the World Bank Group. - Data and reports about climate change risk and adaptation by country, region, and globally, including Climate Adaptation Country Profiles, Climate Smart Agriculture Profiles, and links to more.

Climate Watch by World Resources Institute and partners. A platform for viewing and comparing open climate data from around the world. Includes all countries' GHG emissions, NDCs, linkage between NDCs (nationally determined contributions, or commitments under the Paris Agreement) and SDGs (sustainable development goals) and related targets, and national profiles of climate progress, risks, and vulnerabilities. Also has the Net-Zero Tracker showing the countries, with links to their policy announcements, that have made pledges to achieve net zero emissions.

Commission for Environmental Cooperation. - Has Information on environmental issues in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Environmental Performance Index.  By  Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. Ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across ten issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality, providing a gauge  of  how close countries are to established environmental policy goals.

European Environment Agency Environmental Indicators.

FAOSTAT.  By the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. - Provides food and agriculture statistics from around the world.

Global Environment Outlook (GEO) Reports UNEP, and Environmental Data Explorer. The Environmental Data Explorer is the authoritative source for data sets used by UNEP and its partners in the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report and other integrated environment assessments. Its online database holds more than 500 different variables, as national, subregional, regional and global statistics or as geospatial data sets (maps), covering themes like Freshwater, Population, Forests, Emissions, Climate, Disasters, Health and GDP. Data can be displayed as maps, graphs, data tables or downloaded in different formats.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established by the UN and World Meteorological Organization in 1988 to provide regular reports assessing the science related to climate change.

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). An independent body established by member States in 2012. Publishes detailed assessment reports on specific themes at regional and global levels. 

International Energy Agency (IEA). - This organization of 29 member countries publishes energy statistics and provides some online, e.g. on renewables, energy balances, etc.

NASA: Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet.  Accurate and timely news and information about Earth’s changing climate, with current data, visualizations, and multimedia resources. 

NOAA's National Centers for Envrionmental Information. - (formerly National Climatic Data Center). NOAA is the world’s largest provider of weather and climate data. Land-based, marine, model, radar, weather balloon, satellite, and paleoclimatic are just a few of the types of datasets available for the U.S. and worldwide.

OECD Environment Statistics - internationally comparable environment-related statistics from OECD member countries.

PANGAEA. - Earth and environmental science datasets from around the world

UN Climate Reports. Key reports on climate impacts and solutions from around the United Nations. (Includes reports from the IPCC, UNEP, WMO, UNCCD, UNDRR, etc.)

UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme). Statistical data published in the annual Emissions Gap Report, GEO Reports, and others. All resources can be searched by country, region, topic, and type of resource.

UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. - The biodiversity assessment arm of the United Nations Environment Programme,   WCMC collates, verifies, analyzes and interprets data on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The site provides conservation statistics by country or region.

UNSD Environmental Indicators - global environment statistics on ten indicator themes including air & climate, biodiversity, energy & minerals, forests, governance, land & agriculture, inland water, marine & coastal areas, natural disasters, and waste. Compiled by the UN Statistical Division.

U.S. DOE Data Explorer. - Energy-related data collections from the U.S. Dept. of Energy.

U.S. EPA Envirofacts - Database allows you to search multiple environmental databases for information on polluting facilities, including toxic chemical releases, water discharge permit compliance, hazardous waste handling processes, Superfund status, and air emission estimates for specific neighbourhoods or areas.

U.S. EPA Climate Change Indicators in the United States. - Provides access to the latest climate change indicator data.

World Meteorological Organization - An IGO with close to 200 member countries. Their website links to weather-related sites and databases, and the annual State of the Global Climate report.

World Resources Institute Maps & Data. - WRI produces maps, charts, data sets, infographics, and other visual resources, including several important tools and databases:  Global Forest Watch, Climate Watch, Resource Watch, Forest Atlases, LandMark, Aqueduct, PREPData, and Environmental Democracy Index.

World Wildlife Fund Conservation Science Data and Tools. - WWF datasets include marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecoregions, HydroSHEDS, Global Lakes & Wetlands, and more.

See also sites listed under Clarification -- Facts & Figures tab in the Climate Change Policy Research Guide.

Environmental Law & Policy:

Center for International Environmental Law. A non-profit environmental law firm. The website includes several research reports published every year on important environmental issues.

Climate Change Laws of the World and Climate Change Litigation of the World. By Grantham Research Institute and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School. Databases of national-level climate and climate change legislation and policies from around the world, and litigation cases from 25 countries.

Climate Change Litigation. By Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School, and Arnold & Porter.
Has searchable databases of U.S. and non-U.S. climate change caselaw, updated regularly, with links to decisions, complaints, and other case documents.

Climate Transparency. This global partnership of organizations publishes the annual Climate Transparency Report (previously known as "Brown to Green Report”), a comprehensive overview of all G20 countries' commitments to transition to a net-zero emissions economy. The report is based on 100 indicators on decarbonisation, climate policies, finance, vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, etc. The site also has articles, country factsheets and more related information.

Compendium of Canada's Engagements in International Environmental Agreements. By Environment & Climate Change Canada. 2020, 9th edition. Provides brief summaries of Canada's commitments in international environmental agreements and instruments.

ECOLEX: The Gateway to Environmental Law. By the FAO, IUCN and UNEP. - A database combining the resources of all three organizations; has information on, and links to treaties, international soft-law and other non-binding policy and technical guidance documents, national legislation, judicial decisions, and law and policy literature.

Environmental Justice Atlas. Documents and catalogues social conflict around environmental issues around the world.

International Environmental Agreements Database Project. Hosted at the U. of Oregon, this site compiles a large number of historic and current agreements from a wide variety of sources, all fully searchable, with related performance data mapped to the IEAs.

UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) NDC Registry. Registry of the Nationally Determined Contributions filed by each of the 196 countries that signed Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015.

Nature Databases (Information on Plants & Animals):

All About Birds. By the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University. This online guide to birds and bird watching is designed for use by the general public. The site's main feature is the Bird Guide, with identification information, range maps, life history, sound and video of almost all North American birds. The Merlin search engine allows you to enter place, date, and basic descriptions of birds observed and it provides a list of likely candidates to help identification. The site also includes live cams, online lectures, and much more.   

Atlas of Common Freshwater Macroinvertebrates of Eastern North America. Has images and ID Key for identifying macroinvertebrates commonly used for estimating an Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) for water quality monitoring. Includes mostly insects but also snails, crustaceans, planarians and bivalves commonly included in citizen science water monitoring training and collection.

Biodiversity Heritage Library. This open access collection of digitized works from many natural history and botanical libraries includes information on over 150 million species. 

BirdLife International Data Zone.  This site by a global partnership of conservation organizations has the "State of the World's Birds" report and a database of data collected from around the world searchable by region, country, habitat and threat type, legal actions and conventions, bird types, important bird areas, and more.

COSEWIC Wildlife Species Assessment. Species assessments and status reports from the Committee on the Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

FishBase: A Global Information System on Fishes.  FishBase is a global biodiversity information system on finfishes. It has a wide range of information on all species of finfishes currently known in the world: taxonomy, biology, trophic ecology, life history, and uses, as well as historical data reaching back to 250 years.

Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (GRIIS). Hosted by the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group, this database presents validated and verified inventories of introduced and invasive species at the country level. Searchable by country, kingdom, species, and environment/system.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. By the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and the Species Survival Commission. - Has information about and assessments of the conservation status of around 70,000 of the world’s plants and animals.

Marine Species Identification Portal. Provides scientific information on thousands of marine species including identification keys. Compiled by a global network of collaborating taxonomists initially with UNESCO support.

Native American Ethnobotany: A Database of Foods, Drugs, Dyes and Fibers of Native American Peoples, Derived from Plants. Can be searched by keyword, or browse lists of tribes and plant species. Each record links to documented plant uses and to the USDA PLANTS database for complete botanical information.

Native Plant Database. This database contains information and images for over 9,000 native plants of North America. Searchable by scientific or common name, plant family, province or state, and many other plant characteristics. Hosted by the U. of Texas.

NatureServe Explorer. Provides conservation status, taxonomy, distribution, and life history information for more than 70,000 plants, animals, and ecological communities and systems in the United States and Canada.

PLANTS Database. By the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. - Provides standardized information about the vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichens of the U.S. and its territories.

Plants of the World Online. By the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew  - Has thousands of global plant names, detailed descriptions, and images.

RAM Legacy Stock Assessment Database. A compilation of stock assessment results for commercially exploited marine populations around the world.

Species at Risk Public Registry. Government of Canada.

Maps & Geospatial Data:


ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World. A large collection of geographic information from around the world, including maps, apps, and data layers that have been contributed by Esri partners and users. Content can be searched by keyword, or browsed by content themes. Most of the maps are free, but some require an ArcGIS account for access.

Atlas of Canada. A collection of interactive maps, graphics, images and multi-media resources documenting Canada's landscape and population.

Climate Atlas of Canada. An interactive site by the Prairie Climate Centre that allows you to explore various aspects of climate change using maps, graphs and climate data for provinces, local regions and cities across the country.

Coastal Risk Screening Tool. By Climate Central.  Interactive maps show areas around the world threatened by sea level rise and coastal flooding, based on the latest IPCC and U.S. government data.

Global Forest Watch. By the World Resources Institute. Interactive map of the world showing tree cover loss over time, from 2000 to the present. 

Global Solar Atlas and Global Wind Atlas. Available on the platform by the World Bank Group.

Marine Regions - Managed by the Flanders Marine Institute with data shared from many global sources. It has maps, geographic co-ordinates, and boundaries of thousands of sea-related places, including marine ecoregions, exclusive economic zones, territorial seas, fishing zones, internal waters, world marine heritage sites, and more. Integrates VLIMAR Gazetteer and VLIZ Maritime Boundaries Geobase.

New Brunswick Indigenous Place Names Map (Lnu Place Names). By Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn Inc. Shows Mi'gmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Peskotomuhkati names for waterways, campsites, villages, portages and other landmarks in New Brunswick.

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection Online Maps of Current Interest and Other Topical Maps 

UN Atlas of the Oceans

USGS Products - Maps, Data, etc.. - Links to topographical maps, aerial photography, GIS, web tools, and more.

Whose Land. By TakingITGlobal, Canadian Roots Exchange, and Bold Realities. This website allows users to identify Indigenous Nations, territories, and Indigenous communities in Canada. It can be used for learning about the territory your home or business is situated on, finding information for a land acknowledgement, and learning about the treaties and agreements signed across Canada. Educational videos show why land acknowledgements are important, and the way Indigenous people view their relationship to land. The app consists of six different maps of Indigenous territories, Treaties, and First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities. Also includes parts of the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

WorldAltas. By Graphic Maps. - Free maps of the world, countries, cities, bodies of water, outline maps, map tests and more.

Google Maps and Satellite Images.

See also the Government Information Subject Guide


Historical Map Collections:

David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Focuses on rare 16th through 21st century maps of North and South America, but the collection of over 150,000 items also includes maps of the world, atlases, wall maps, globes, school geographies, pocket maps, books of exploration, maritime charts, and a variety of cartographic materials including pocket, wall, children's, and manuscript maps ranging in date from about 1550 to the present.

Library of Congress Map Collection. Thousands of digitized historical maps from the LC collection.

Old Maps Online. A search interface for over 400,000 historical maps digitized by archives and libraries worldwide.

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection & Historical Map Web Sites. Organized collection of historical maps and related sites from the U. of Texas Libraries.

USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection.

See also the Government Information Subject Guide

Environmental Organizations (Selected Key Organizations that Publish Research):


Canadian Environmental Law Association.

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Canadian Wildlife Federation.

Conservation Council of New Brunswick.

David Suzuki Foundation.

East Coast Environmental Law.


Environmental  Defence Canada

Pembina Institute.

West Coast Environmental Law.

World Wildlife Fund. - Canada's largest international conservation organization.

(See also Environmental Data & Statistics above.)



Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) - A non-profit, scientific institution that conducts research on the most pressing challenges of forest and landscape management around the world.

Center for Sustainable Economy. - An environmental economics think tank working to speed the transition to a sustainable society.

Greenpeace International. - An independent campaigning organization since 1971.

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). - An independent research organization that works to support sustainable development and protect the environment.

International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). - An independent think tank championing solutions to the world's sustainability challenges.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - Over 1,400 member organizations and thousands of experts working to conserve nature and accelerate the transition to sustainable development.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). - An international nonprofit environmental organization since 1970. Its lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists work to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment.

Sierra Club. - U.S. non-profit environmental group since 1892.

UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme). Key publications include GEO Yearbook and  Emissions Gap Report. Hundreds of global environmental assessment indicators searchable online.

Worldwatch Institute. Publishes two key annual reports: "State of the World" on progress toward a sustainable world (at HC 59 .S73 in Book Stacks) and "Vital Signs", on the trends shaping the future (available at HC 10 .V53, latest in Ref.)

(See also International Environmental Data & Statistics sources above.)

Environmental News Sites:

Carbon Brief: Clear on Climate - has daily and weekly summaries of newspaper and online coverage of climate science and policy and energy policy from around the world.

Clean Energy Review - weekly digest of important climate and clean energy developments, by Clean Energy Canada.


Environment News Service

Environmental News Network - An interactive resource, highlighting the latest environmental news, events and stories from across Canada.

The Guardian - Environment

IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin  - daily coverage of UN environment and sustainable development negotiations.

InsideClimate News - non-profit staffed by professional journalists

See also the list of News databases in the A-Z Databases list.

Evaluation Tools:

Carbon Tracker Initiative. An independent non-profit financial think tank based in London, England that analyzes the financial impact of the energy transition away from fossil fuels. Their team of analysts compile company profiles on about 70 companies in the oil and gas and power and utilities sectors to identify the investment risk due to stranded assets, and what the companies need to do to meet international climate targets.

Climate Action Tracker.  A joint project of several non-profit research institutes analyzing government action in 35 countries and the EU, and measuring it against the Paris Agreement aim of holding warming below 2 degrees.

Corporate Mapping Project. A database of who's who in the Canadian oil and gas industry, showing the links between corporations, think tanks, lobby groups, financiers and others who promote the industry, the people who run them, and their connections to larger corporate networks. The Fossil-Power Top 50 listing includes detailed information on these organizations (such as their funders, strategies, and controversies). This project is part of and links into the broader LittleSis database by the Public Accountability Initiative in the U.S. that shows relationships between thousands of individuals and corporations gleaned mostly from government sources.

DeSmog Climate Disinformation Research Database - An extensive database of organizations involved in the global warming denial industry. Lists organizations, think tanks, industry associations, astroturf groups and individuals who are misleading the public and stalling action on global warming. Entries include background information, documented quotes and actions, funding sources and more.

Ecological Footprints. By the Urban Environmental Management Program, Global Development Research Center. - Includes Global Progress Indicator, Water Footprint, Carbon Counter, Energy Footprint, Food Miles, etc.

Energy Policy Tracker. A joint project by a group of non-profit research institutes. They track and analyze publicly-available information from many countries, on public spending commitments for different energy types and other policies supporting energy production and consumption.

OECD Environmental Performance Reviews. Periodic reviews of each OECD country's progress in achieving its domestic objectives and international environmental commitments. The most recent review of Canada's environmental performance was in 2017. Previous reviews were in 2004 and 1995.

SourceWatch - By the Center for Media and Democracy. SourceWatch profiles the activities of front groups, PR spinners, industry-friendly experts, industry-funded organizations, and think tanks trying to manipulate public opinion on behalf of corporations or government.

Transparency International Climate & Corruption Atlas. This atlas documents cases of corruption in climate finance and projects. It is part of Transparency International's Climate Governance Integrity Programme, to safeguard climate finance and take action against abuse, mismanagement, and waste.



Canadian Climate Change Policy:  

Climate Change Policy. A Special Topic Guide within the Contemporary Canadian Government & Politics Research Guide. R.P. Bell Library, Mount Allison University. Has annotated links to recommended secondary and primary sources. The three main sections are:  

"Clarification and Direction": For definitions, statistics and data, annual reviews, overviews and background information.
 "Finding & Evaluating Sources": Lists core journals, indexes and databases, research organizations, and sources for finding books and academic work, current events/news, government and political party information, videos and films.
"Primary Sources": Links to collections of government and political party speeches and documents, recorded images, and sites for getting involved.


International Development:

ELDIS. Hosted by the Institute of Development Studies, U.K. Links to research and policy documents from over 8,000 publishers.

International Development Research Centre.

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). - An independent research organization that works to support sustainable development and protect the environment.

International Institute for Sustainable Development.(IISD). - An independent think tank championing solutions to the world's sustainability challenges.

Our World in Data. Website by Oxford University and Global Change Data Lab presents the latest research and data visualizations for some of the largest problems facing the world. Topics include economic growth and inequality, population, food, health, energy, environment, work issues, etc. Also has a Sustainable Development Goals Tracker.

UN Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 SDGs, building on the Millennium Development Goals are a call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all. These goals guide UNDP policy and funding.

World Development Indicators. By the World Bank.

World Bank Development Data. - The Data Catalog shows all of the World Bank databases available here; includes World Development Indicators and Report, Millennium Development Goals, Climate Change Data, etc.

Marine Environment:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada "Protecting Oceans" - Federal government website includes information on marine protected areas, conservation targets, State of Canada's Oceans reports, and more.

Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment - Created in 1989 by the governments of Maine, Massachusetts, New Brunswick, New Hampshire and Nova Scotia to study and provide leadership on cross-border issues such as ecosystem conditions, water quality, and climate change within the Gulf of Maine watershed. Has indicators and monitoring data.

Marine Regions - Managed by the Flanders Marine Institute with data shared from many global sources. It has maps, geographic co-ordinates, and boundaries of thousands of sea-related places, including marine ecoregions, exclusive economic zones, territorial seas, fishing zones, internal waters, world marine heritage sites, and more. Integrates VLIMAR Gazetteer and VLIZ Maritime Boundaries Geobase.

Marine Species Identification Portal. Provides scientific information on thousands of marine species including identification keys. Compiled by a global network of collaborating taxonomists initially with UNESCO support.

Ocean Conservancy - A charitable organization working to protect the oceans and marine life since 1972.

Ocean Networks Canada - The University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada monitors the west and east coasts of Canada and the Arctic to continuously deliver data in real-time for scientific research that helps communities, governments and industry make informed decisions. Real-time, continuous oceanographic data includes video and hydrophone recordings and more. See also background information and publications such as the Marine Life Field Guide.

Ocean Wise Conservation Association and Ocean Wise Research Institute  - Based in Vancouver, with a mission to protect and restore the world's oceans, the Ocean Wise websites link to educational materials and research in three main areas of focus: over-fishing, ocean pollution, and climate change.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution - The worlds largest, private, non-profit oceanographic research facility studying all aspects of the ocean.

World Ocean Database. - The world's largest publicly available collection of subsurface ocean data from 1772 to the present. By NOAA, U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

Urban & Rural Planning:

American Planning Association Podcasts. - Podcasts on famous urban planners, and a "Green Community" series.

Canadian Urban Institute. - A not-for-profit organization based in Toronto, with a mandate to research and promote effective policies and best practices in urban development.

City Mayors. By the City Mayors Foundation. - The Foundation is an international think tank dedicated to urban affairs. The site reports news from towns and cities around the world, ranks cities and profiles the best mayors.

Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). - The FCM represents close to 2,000 local governments across Canada, providing funding for, and advice on, community and environmental projects. Their resource library contains online guides, reports, case studies, tools, videos, and webinar recordings.

ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability. - An international association of local governments, representing more than 1,200 cities and towns in over 65 counties worldwide that are dedicated to developing innovative approaches to sustainable development.

Metropolis Project. - An international network for comparative research and public policy development on migration, diversity, and immigrant integration in cities in Canada and around the world. Links to centres in Ontario, Quebec, B.C., the Prairie and Atlantic provinces.

Urban Environmental Management : The WWW Virtual Library. Global Development Research Center.