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EDITORIAL: Climate threat is a ‘crisis’

Hundreds of Island students took part in a large rally Friday in Charlottetown as part of the Global Strike on Climate. Most of the protesters weaved through the streets of the city chanting “climate justice’’ and calling on all levels of government to act. JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN
Hundreds of Prince Edward Island students took part in the Global Strike on Climate. Most of them would probably agree, the climate is in a state of emergency. -Jim Day

You might notice a difference today in our stories about the global warming protests.

From now on, we at SaltWire will refer to what’s happening to our climate as a climate crisis, instead of the usual “climate change.”

It represents a change in tone that we feel is appropriate to the urgency of the matter.

We’ve been chewing on this for some months now, since the group Extinction Rebellion besieged our office in Halifax and were invited in for a chat.

They asked us to consider this change in language, as they’re convinced people aren’t alarmed enough about the issue to insist that governments do something. Referring to it consistently as a crisis or emergency, they said, could eventually help people change how they feel about it. It could make a difference.

We’re not the first news organization to make this move. The British newspaper The Guardian has made a similar change and others have followed suit. More are considering it.

We will still publish contrary voices and commentaries on all sides of this issue.

But the vast majority of scientists are convinced that we are now very close to a point of no return, that something drastic has to happen, right now, to prevent catastrophic emergencies that will imperil millions, if not billions, of humans.

Yet another report was delivered to the United Nations this week, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warning of the dire consequences of continuing on our current path.

Among their findings are that global warming has reached one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which is already triggering glacier melts and permafrost declines, raising sea levels, warming oceans and causing more frequent high tides and intense storms.

The warming oceans are already affecting sea life and disrupting fisheries. Arctic sea ice continues to decline, contributing to milder winters and warmer summers in the north.

Millions of young people worldwide took to the streets on Friday, the culmination of a week-long series of protests. Their hero, Greta Thunberg, spoke again at the UN this week, scolding world leaders for their inaction and instigating a memorable social media exchange with the U.S. president (and an equally memorable Bruce MacKinnon cartoon on Wednesday).

The protests had been led by high school students taking Fridays off school to carry signs and demonstrate.

But all over the world, millions of older students, office workers and just plain concerned citizens are joining them.

They’re all justifiably worried about their future.

Who wouldn’t be, if they were hearing such warnings from scientists? Who should they trust? The experts? Or a bunch of middle-aged politicians content to kick the climate can down the road for the next generation to deal with?

It’s easy to understand their anger and frustration.

We have an opportunity in Canada, right now, to insist that people running for office make addressing the climate crisis a priority.

Let’s hold their feet to the fire.

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