The Harris Centre—as an independent knowledge broker and facilitator, with a mandate to encourage respectful dialogue and informed decision making— spent 18 months bringing together key stakeholders and facilitating a province-wide discussion to tackle the question: How can NL create economic and social prosperity while mitigating and adapting to climate change?
Who was Involved?
In addition to the Harris Centre team managing the events, website and facilitating dicussions, the ForecastNL project has a dedicated Steering Committee comprised of industry, community, Indigenous, and academic leaders who bring a broad range of perspectives and experience to the table; these individuals have knowledge of the economy and society of NL, as well as varying expertise related to the environment, climate change, regional development, labour, and the energy industry.
- Facilitate informed public dialogue and discussion regarding the intersection between climate, economy, and society in an effort to reframe the discussion beyond the polarization and competition of concerns;
- Provide a neutral platform for respectful discussion of ideas and solutions;
- Identify promising ideas, actions or approaches that arise during the discussion sessions and online forum, and share these findings with the appropriate organizations and individuals, and connect and facilitate further discussions where appropriate.
- ForecastNL was a public-dialogue process that provided a neutral platform to discuss ideas and solutions to create economic and social prosperity while mitigating and adapting to climate change. The process focused on bringing forward key information, stimulating respectful discussion, and uncovering ideas and solutions. The project engaged a wide range of participants from academia, industry, community, and government, as well as the general public.
- A demographically-representative Citizen Forum of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador over the age of 16 was formed to provide feedback on the various panels and presentations that were facilitated, creating an open dialogue between the presenters and the public.
- Key-findings are currently being synthesized into a summative report, and in Fall 2022, we produced a special edition of Vital Signs dedicated to the project's findings.
To view these sessions conducted for this project see below.
Session #1: What's ForecastNL?
Our panelist, Dr. Joel Finnis began the session with an overview of what we currently know about how climate change is impacting the environment in NL. Dr. Finnis walked attendees through the latest temperature projections as well as projections for precipitation and storm events for both the island and Labrador. More details on the projections presented in this session can be explored in 2022 edition of Vital Signs.
Below is a detailed description of the session
Watch the recorded session:
Key findings from this session
- Warmer Temperatures: In summary, our panelist stated that NL can expect warmer temperatures everywhere, in every season – four degrees Celsius in some locations, and 2-13 degrees for parts of Labrador in the winter. In the simplest terms, by 2050 Corner Brook’s winter temperatures will resemble traditional St. John’s winters, and by 2100 Nain’s winter temperatures could resemble winter in St. John’s as well.
- Wetter Weather: In terms of precipitation, Dr. Finnis explained that depending on the specific projection models used, what used to be a “1 in 100 years” rain event will become a 25-year event or potentially a 10-year event. This will mean a much higher risk of heavy precipitation – about 4 to 10 times more likely – and will have significant impacts on flooding and infrastructure, as well as trickled-down impacts on insurance costs on individuals.
- Sea-Level and Storm Surge: Finnis also outlined changes expected to sea-level rise and storm surges. An increase of 0.5m to 0.75m by 2100 in some areas. He explained that with a half-metre rise the risk of coastal flooding increases dramatically – more than 100 times higher than present, and with a 0.75m rise the future low tide will be the equivalent to the current high tide.
- Less Sea-Ice: Moving from the 1980s to the last decade or so, the number of days in which there’s been open water around Labrador has been declining, as has the mean annual concentration of sea ice. Landscapes are changing the oceans and thus changing the ways we can use the environment.
- Other Changes: May other weather events will also be impacted such as freeze/thaw cycles, precipitation types, as well as changes to wind events – these will all have impacts on ecology and shift where animals are able to survive, where fish are, where plants, insects, pests etc. are found, along with other unexpected changes.
- Rethink, Rebuild and Redesign: To begin to address the problem of climate change, Dr. Finnis suggests we need to “rethink, rebuild and redesign” our infrastructures, our cities and communities, as well as our lifestyles.
The panel, comprised of Ashley Smith (Owner and managing director of Fundamental Inc.), and Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo (dean of the School of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Studies at the Labrador Institute of Memorial University) responded to Dr. Finnis’ presentation and outlined many of the changes they are already seeing in the environment through their respective work. Highlights from the panel discussion and question and answer period with the audience include:
- Labrador already seeing change: The environment in Labrador has already changed and will continue to experience changes from climate change – some changes by 2100 will be to be very serious and quite alarming for the people living in the area. Many people in Labrador have already been experiencing the physical and mental health impacts of climate change, as well as the impacts to livelihoods, to travel safety due to sea ice decline, to hunt food, and, more generally, the impacts on their culture and identity.
- Local action is underway, but there needs to be more: There have been great successes and collaborations with municipalities working on climate action plans and instituting projects around things like renewable energy, community composting, solar lighting, energy efficiency measures, and watershed modeling as the foundation for an eco-asset management plan – but there’s lots of opportunity for more of that work.
- Quick and decisive action is needed now: The time for easy, comfortable, slow solutions has past. In previous decades, when alarms were being sounded, we had more of an opportunity for mitigation and adaptation that would have made some significant changes to reduce this loss that we’re facing. We are now passed that, so even if we adapt and mitigate and do the best that we can, we are going to lose a tremendous amount of things and we have to accept that. However, there is a willingness to force governments, businesses, and people collectively to take action. There have been huge protests in the last couple of years around climate change; there is a level of attention we’re seeing now to problems related to inequality, and environmental justice. A motivating factor is the knowledge that people do care and there is a desire to address climate change. Seeing all of the efforts over the last two years in the province, seeing people pursuing local solutions like community agriculture, putting in renewable energy at community scale, and looking at eco-asset management as the initial framework, are all also hopeful characteristics in the province.
- Evidence-based decision-making and opportunity for action: The science around climate change is accurate – there is no global dispute. We need to incorporate western-trained scientists and Indigenous science into larger provincial plans. There are enormous opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador to utilize the abundance of renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, as well as our skilled human resources and engaged community members who are willing to sit down and care enough to have a conversation about what action is needed.
- About ForecastNL: Goals and Objectives
- "Our Challenge"
- Read the Gazette article on ForecastNL
- Listen to "On Target with Linda Swain feat. ForecastNL" on VOCM
- Listen to "On the Go with Anthony Germain feat. Vital Signs 2022" on CBC
- ForecastNL Steering Committee
- View the Discussion Forum: Hopes and Worries
- View the Discussion Forum: Sharing Opinions
- Watch the related video: Conservation Corps NL 'Climate Change: The Human Impact'