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Climate change or climate crisis?

Joel Finnis, a climatologist at Memorial University in St. John’s was one of 10 people interviewed by The Telegram to get their views on climate change vs a climate crisis.
Joel Finnis, a climatologist at Memorial University in St. John’s was one of 10 people interviewed by The Telegram to get their views on climate change vs a climate crisis. - Jasmine Burt

We asked 10 people from across Newfoundland & Labrador what they are thinking

Flood waters in Ottawa and fires in Alberta: the changing environment has politico’s in Canada debating on whether to declare a national emergency in regard to effects felt due to climate change.

Since May, the discussion has been ongoing in Parliament and some changes have been made to in an attempt to slow climate change, like increases in carbon taxes and a push to electrical vehicles.

The Telegram set out to ask people in the province, whose livelihoods depend on the environment, what their thoughts are — change or crisis — and if they have felt the effects.

Joel Finnis, climatologist,
MUN, St. John’s:

"It’s not really an ‘either/or’ question: we’re definitely experiencing climate change, which has been steadily building into a crisis. We’ve known for decades that our use of fossil fuels influences global climate, but haven’t taken any serious actions to address the problem. We’re now at a critical point, faced with a choice between changing our behaviour now or living with severe climate change in the future."


Cindy Day, meteorologist,
SaltWire Network:

“Let me start by saying that I am pleased that we have stopped calling it global warming, because that sounds so cozy. What is happening is destroying our planet! Climate change is not harsh enough and so I do believe that ‘climate crisis’ is a better label and description for what is happening. In the last three years, we have experienced the strongest hurricane ever “globally”, the strongest hurricane in the northern hemisphere, the strongest hurricane in the southern hemisphere, and the strongest storms in both the Pacific and the open Atlantic. These storms are serving up powerful storm surge and our coastlines are suffering as a result of it. I believe this indeed is a climate crisis; doing nothing would be a disaster for the planet and the economy.”


Leo White, farmer,
Hugh’s Pond Farm, St.John’s:

“I’d have to say at this stage I still see it as climate change. It’s not a crisis but something needs to be done about it. In some parts of the world climate change seems to be going the other way and getting colder. For someone like myself, farming, we don’t really see that the season here has gotten any longer. Farmers in Nova Scotia who are relying on crops like apples and peaches, they would notice the change.”


Gabriela Sabau, economics professor,
Grenfell Campus, Corner Brook:

“I firmly believe that we are dealing with climate change and not with a climate crisis only. Climate change is a serious present reality, documented by scientists, and which needs global facts-based solutions to avoid ecological collapse and demise of the 21st-century civilization. In 1992, climate change was defined by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as: ‘a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.’ These transitions start with knowledge about climate change happening, and must involve governments, corporations and individuals all over the world who are to take seriously the task of dealing with climate change for the sake of avoiding a worldwide tragedy. The task is monumental and global, that is why I do not believe that limiting it to the level of a ‘climate crisis’ will bring a lasting, consensus-based solution to the human existential issue which is climate change.”


Susan Lester, farmer,
Lester’s Farm Market, St. John’s:

“I think it’s definitely a climate change. The growing season is mostly pretty short in Newfoundland so it hasn’t changed much for us. The larger-scale part of climate change is out of our control. You can’t get too down on yourself, though, but we can certainly notice a difference. We look back on our notes from year to year and we can notice there is a difference in the output of the crops. We just have to learn to adapt.”


Beatrice Hunter, Inuit activist,
Happy Valley-Goose Bay:
 

“I believe it’s climate crisis because locally, here in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, we are dealing with a hydro dam that will poison us and our fish. We depend on these (country foods) with the high cost of living here. I think it’s always been going like this and we are just opening our eyes now. It seems like the Aboriginal values are clashing with the colonial construct that is in place. I have been brought up with these Inuk values that are supposed to be sustaining Mother Earth. It’s funny, I’ve never opened my eyes until I went into the Muskrat Falls (hydroelectricity project) case. I always knew there was something funny and something I couldn’t put my finger on.”


Mumtaz Cheema, chair of environmental studies,
Memorial University, Corner Brook:

“As an agriculture expert, I can say climate change is happening now and it could have very serious implications and increase global warming potential if mitigation and adaptation strategies are not implemented. Ultimately, temperature and rain intensity will go high and that will cause a very alarming situation due to natural calamities. Moreover, due to rise in CO2 in atmosphere, quality of vegetables, crops and meat will deteriorate.”


Paul and Brenda Dinn, beekeepers,
Adelaide’s Newfoundland Honey, St. John’s:

“I think it is a natural phenomenon that is turning into a crisis. We are taking something that would naturally happen to the environment and adding to it. It’s a combination of factors, like volcanoes and forest fires, but we are also a huge factor with plastics in the ocean and the moving of forest areas. There has to be a balance and we have to learn to live with nature. We’ve only been at this for about seven years, but last summer it was unusually hot in Newfoundland, which is great, but we noticed the nectar flow wasn’t good, so the bees weren’t bringing in the nectar. And we love to see icebergs and the tourists, but we see a lot more icebergs lately and the bees can’t get out because it’s too cold. My son, years ago before climate change became a topic, he used to wear a shirt that says, ‘Climate change is not cool,’ I guess he was a little before his time.”


Jim Learning, NunatuKavut elder,
outside Happy Valley-Goose Bay:

“Both. There is a natural evolution. We, of course, as people have contributed to that. It’s disastrous. For the last three winters, we haven’t seen any really cold weather, but we are getting a lot of snow, so that’s a moisture change. I am seeing the subtle changes. Up until about three years ago, we had almost a continuous freeze. We are watching fishermen chasing shrimp further north. This is seriously impacted by temperature, and we have a significant play here in Labrador and Muskrat Falls. The young people are very reachable and knowledgeable. Let’s fix it — the kids are not going to have a damn thing left. If you’re floating in a boat, it’s all OK, but it’s when you have to start chopping that wood that you start to drown. This is the boat that’s going down.”


Cecil Stockley, iceberg tour operator,
Twillingate:

“I think it’s more climate change. I’ve been in the iceberg business for 35 years and the most icebergs I’ve seen in a season was 1992 and 1998. Also, growing up in Twillingate and living there all my life, I’d have to say 2014 was the coldest year I’ve felt — of course, that could be going up and down on a scale. I’m just not on the side of agreeing with saying we are seeing more icebergs because of a climate crisis.”

Twitter: @JasmineBurtNL

* This story has been updated.

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