Climate change ‘outpacing North’s capacity to adapt’

The rate of climate change in the North is exceeding communities’ capacity to adapt, according to a federal report.

The report, led by Natural Resources Canada, documents regional perspectives on climate change impacts and adaptation. A chapter on the North was released on November 23.

The chapter’s authors drew their conclusions from changing snow and ice conditions, shifts in the distribution of plants and animals, extreme weather events, and alterations in the frequency, size and severity of disturbances brought on by the likes of pests and wildfires.


“Climate change is producing severe, and in many cases irreversible, changes to northern landscapes and ecosystems,” the authors wrote. A warming climate is also having detrimental health effects and “amplifying existing inequities,” they said.

Although northerners are taking a leading role in adapting to climate change and finding innovative ways to meet their needs, the authors state there will likely be cases where solutions simply aren’t viable.

“I fear that adaptation efforts will encounter unmovable limits,” Bronwyn Hancock, associate vice-president of research development at Yukon University and coordinating lead author of the report, writes in its preface.

“The magnitude of projections for temperature increase, sea-level rise, and ice and permafrost loss for the next century will force us to consider the unthinkable – for example, abandoning homes and traditional territories, moratoria on harvesting traditional foods, and travelling exclusively by air rather than on land or sea.”

The chapter adds to previous reports that highlight the speed of change in the North. Two studies published earlier this year showed that the region is warming at four times the rate of the rest of the world, as the CBC previously reported. Earlier this month, Reuters reported, scientists said the loss of summertime sea ice in the Arctic by 2050 was now inevitable.


Commenting on the fast-paced change, Nunavut MP Lori Idlout said the federal government was leaving northern families to fend for themselves.

“What is a community meant to do when a forest fire wipes out people’s homes, health centres and grocery stores?” Idlout said in a press release published on Monday by the New Democratic Party.

The NDP called on the Liberal government to act urgently to prevent the worst climate-related disasters and hold fossil fuel companies accountable.

“Families must adapt due to climate change and fossil fuel companies should do the same. They continue to pollute our land and air and, as a result, the Arctic ice is melting rapidly,” Idlout said.


This article is produced under a Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0 licence through the Wilfrid Laurier University Climate Change Journalism Fellowship.