Thunder Bay

Climate change report hits hard for northwestern Ontario environmentalist

The report, which was commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada, and released early this week, highlights the fact that Canada is warming, on average, at twice global rate. 

Some in the region hope the Canada's Changing Climate report will serve as a call to action

Teika Newton, of Kenora, Ont., is the membership campaign coordinator for Climate Action Network Canada. (Climate Action Network Canada)

When she was first briefed on its contents, Teika Newton said the Canada's Changing Climate Report hit her "like a punch to the gut."

For someone who works with climate policy on a daily basis, the information wasn't particularly new, she said.  Newton is a membership campaign coordinator with Climate Action Network Canada and lives in Kenora, Ont.

Still, it felt overwhelming. 

"It was just the heaviness of having it all summarized in that one package and hearing the severity of what Canada has already faced, and what lies ahead," she said in an interview with CBC Thunder Bay's Superior Morning.

"It's a lot to digest."

The new Canada in a Changing Climate report highlights the urgency of the problem here at home. We discuss that report with two people here in northwestern Ontario who hope others are taking notice. Teika Newton, who's based in Kenora and works for Climate Action Network Canada. And Michael Rennie, an associate professor in the biology department at Lakehead, and a research fellow at the Experimental Lakes near Kenora. 9:20

The report, which was commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada, and released early this week, highlighted the fact that Canada is warming, on average, at twice the global rate. 

It offered a glimpse into the kinds of changes northwestern Ontario might face in the coming years, Newton said, including winters with less snow pack and more rain, as well as drier summers, "and with that, an increased risk of forest fire, probably, for our region."

More reports are expected to follow this one, she added, which will more closely examine regional impacts.

Michael Rennie is an associate professor in the department of Biology at Lakehead University, and a research fellow at the IISD Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario.

The report comes as a welcome addition to longstanding research on climate change, said Michael Rennie, an associate professor in the biology department at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., adding that it backs up research on climate change being conducted at the IISD Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in northwestern Ontario, where he is a research fellow. 

"A lot of the things that are in the report we've been seeing at ELA for the past 50 years," he said.

Rennie, who does research focused on freshwater biology, said there's no question freshwater ecosystems in the region will see significant changes due to warming temperatures. 

"So we've done research that shows ... summers have increased in length, on average, by about three weeks over the past 50 years," he said. "Which sounds like a great thing. But if you're, say, a lake trout that relies on cold water habitat in lakes, that can be a real problem."

Both Rennie and Newton said they hope the report draws attention to the need for climate change action in Canada. 

"Unfortunately climate action in Canada has become a very politically partisan issue," said Newton. "It's become very divisive. And we frankly don't have time for this." 

With files from Superior Morning