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True North: Adapting Infrastructure to Climate Change in Northern Canada

2.0 Canada's North and Climate Change

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This chapter describes the implications of a changing climate for northern Canada, and the unique environmental, social, and economic characteristics and key drivers that shape how it affects communities and people living there. Over the past fifty years, the region has been undergoing a rapid social, economic, political, and cultural evolution that a changing climate had historically little to do with, but is now accentuating. The region?s population also presents unique attributes in terms of demographics, culture, settlement patterns, skills base, and health outcomes. This context is important, as it guides the selection of strategies to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Among other publicly available information, the chapter draws from the section by Furgal and Prowse (2008) on northern Canada in From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate.

2.1 A Changing Climate

Our climate is changing. Scientific evidence increasingly points to human activity as a main cause of change. Together with natural drivers of climate variability, we are contributing to warmer average air, ground, and ocean temperatures, extensive melting of sea ice, sea-level rise, more frequent and intense extreme events, and changing snow, rain, and land ice conditions. According to the 2007 scientific assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global average temperatures have risen by 0.8C since pre-industrial times, and a further 0.6 C is likely unavoidable due to momentum in the climate system.[4]

Climate change is occurring gradually, but continued trends in global GHG emissions could lead to sudden and large changes in major components of the climate system, resulting in rapid and widespread effects that exceed the capacity of humans and ecosystems to adapt. Massive diebacks of major forests such as the boreal, rapid melting of Arctic sea ice, and large-scale melting of permafrost, are examples of such catastrophic events causing feedbacks that further exacerbate climate change. Widespread melting of permafrost in certain types of terrain would release large amounts of GHGs into the atmosphere. Massive melting of ice and snow reduces the earth?s ability to reflect the sun?s radiation back to the atmosphere, thus an ice-free Arctic traps more heat and amplifies warming.

In Canada, the impacts of a changing climate are already apparent, and especially acute in Canada?s North. Canadian climate change impacts and adaptation assessments provide a picture of specific vulnerabilities on a regional and sectoral basis.[5] The impacts of climate change touch all regions of Canada, presenting environmental, social, and economic risks, and some potential opportunities. However, the North has been and will continue to be particularly affected, with warming taking place at a greater rate than throughout Canada as a whole. This trend hides important local differences as rates of warming in some areas, like the Mackenzie Valley, have been greater than in others.

Changes in the Arctic are happening much more rapidly than what was anticipated under even the most pessimistic scientific projections. The accelerated melting of Arctic sea ice is the most obvious example of how scientific projections have underestimated the rate and magnitude of changes taking place in the region.

The 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment estimated open Arctic summer waters by 2050. Recent findings suggest that this might take place within a decade.[6] And, it is worth noting that the Northwest Passage has been navigable in each of the past four summers. Other important changes in the earth?s ice and snow systems that are happening at faster rates than models projected are the significant retreat and thinning of glaciers of the Greenland ice sheet, along with rates of permafrost melting. Evidence from communities in Canada?s North indicates that rapid changes in climate conditions have resulted in permafrost melting at unprecedented rates, affecting nearly every type of built structure in the region. The variance between observed and expected changes suggests that either global climate models inadequately capture ice and snow processes or global changes are happening more rapidly than projected and this is most evident in the Arctic.[7]

In light of emerging scientific findings, the projections in Table 1 and Table 2 of changes in two climate indicators for Canada?s North are very likely to be conservative. We can still draw out a few observations. Average conditions in Canada?s North are likely to be significantly warmer and wetter by the end of the century. Changes in temperature in winter and fall months are likely to be greater than in other seasons. Among other consequences, significantly less cold winters could be beneficial in terms of reduced space-heating costs, but could also facilitate the spread of forest pests. Relative changes in precipitation are moderate and comparable among seasons, with expected variations in ratios of rain to snow. Warming, longer ice-free seasons, and changes in wind patterns are likely to affect evaporation rates, with implications for lake levels and soil moisture.

TABLE 1: Projections of temperature and precipitation changes for Canada?s North
Mean annual temperature change
( Celsius)
Mean annual precipitation change
2020 2050 2080 2020 2050 2080
West 1 to 3 2 to 9 3 to 12 -5 to 8 0 to 20 0 to 40
East 1 to 3 2 to 6 4 to 12 -5 to 7 0 to 15 5 to 20

Source: Furgal and Prowse (2008). Ranges are based on scatter plots from projections of seven global climate models and a combination of emission scenarios. Projections are relative to a 1961-1990 baseline. The division between ?west? and ?east? is along longitude 102. See reference for details.

Table 2: Projections of seasonal temperature and precipitation changes for Canada?s North
West 3 to 11 -7 to 35 2 to 6 0 to 30 1 to 3 5 to 15 3 to 10 5 to 25
East 4 to 9 -7 to 40 2 to 5 0 to 25 1 to 3 5 to 20 3 to 9 3 to 30

Source: Furgal and Prowse (2008). Ranges are based on scatter plots from projections of seven global climate models and a combination of emission scenarios. Projections are relative to a 1961-1990 baseline. The division between ?west? and ?east? is along longitude 102. See reference for details.

In addition to changes in averages, extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent and severe. Evidence so far suggests more intense precipitation events, and fewer moderate and lowintensity events. There may also be an increase in peak wind speeds during intense storms; lightening strikes may also become more frequent.[8] Scientific evidence also points to an accelerating trend in Arctic storm activity.[9] With the rapid warming of the northern Canadian climate comes a wide range of changes in physical conditions. Table 3 below summarizes some of these, as documented in scientific literature. Chapter 3 explains the implications of these changes on northern infrastructure and the people and industries reliant on these systems.

Table 3: Physical effects of climate change in Canada?s North
Effects on water systems, ice, and snow
Effects on ecosystems

A. Warming (air, ground and oceans), sea-level rise, and decreased sea-ice extent, contribute to accelerated coastal erosion.

B. Reduced sea-ice extent and thickness. Among other factors, this could mean a seasonally icefree Arctic within this century, possibly as soon as the end of the next decade. Rapid sea-ice loss in summer months could also lead to pronounced overland warming and trigger rapid permafrost degradation.

C. Melting of glaciers and ice sheets, contributing to global sea-level rise. Melting of mountain glaciers likely to affect regional hydrology.

D. Warming and thawing of permafrost (area and depth), with implications for groundwater as a contributing source to streamflow. Discontinuous permafrost at southern margins could disappear. Large-scale melting of permafrost has global implications, as the process would release GHGs (methane) into the atmosphere further contributing to warming of the atmosphere.

E. Earlier break-up of river and lake ice, thinner ice cover.

F. Changing snow season length and characteristics, regionally variable snow cover, more frequent ?rain-on-snow? events.

G. Changes in streamflow, with direction of trend varying regionally.

H. Increased productivity, range, and abundance of certain plant species (grasses, sedges, flowering species). Likely narrowing of ecological niches for high-latitude or uniquely northern species. Shifts in species composition and ecosystem structure (e.g., displacement of Arctic tundra by boreal forest at southern fringes; changing patterns of natural disturbances, such as forest pests and fires).

I. Increased vulnerability of freshwater and marine species adapted to narrow range of Arctic climate conditions. Increased threat from habitat losses and competition from northward advance of southerly species.

Sources: Anisimov et al. (2007), Furgal and Prowse (2008), Lawrence et al. (2008), WMO (2009), Richardson et al. (2009).

2.2 Overview of Canada ?s North

Defining the North

Canada?s North is both a geographic label and a political term. Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut constitute Canada?s territorial North, each being distinct from the other. Environmental and cultural aspects of northern latitudes of many provinces ? British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador ? drift ?north of 60? into the political boundaries of the territories. Two observations occur: first, while our focus is principally on the three territories known collectively as the North, many of the NRTEE?s conclusions and recommendations can be considered and applied by these provinces; second, while our report targets ?Canada?s North? in the context of the three territories, it is worth remembering that this region is diverse, requiring further consideration of how our conclusions and recommendations can be applied within each territory.

The Physical Environment

Canada?s North is vast. Covering more than 3.5 million km2, Canada?s three northern territories make up over 40 per cent of our country?s landmass (Figure 3).[10] Nunavut alone is comparable in size to Western Europe. A number of physical features shape the region?s characteristic harsh, fragile environment and abundance of natural resources:

Climate: Northern climates consist of long, cold winters and short summers, with substantial variation among places, seasons, and decades. Average yearly temperatures range from -1 to -5C in the southern reaches of the region, whereas islands in Canada?s High Arctic experience average annual temperatures approaching -18 C.[11] South of Canada?s High Arctic, summers can be quite warm, with average temperatures ranging from 7 to 14 C.[12] Daily maximum temperatures in Whitehorse and Yellowknife in July and August reach the low 20s.[13] On average, the region is relatively dry, with greater precipitation falling in southern Northwest Territories, Yukon, and eastern Nunavut.

Landforms: Canada?s diverse landscapes fall into eight distinct regions called physiographic regions. Each region is associated with different natural resources, such as minerals, oil and gas, and forests. Canada?s North includes six physiographic regions, three of which extend southward to the border with the United States. For example, the Cordilleran Region, with its steep mountains and narrow valleys, includes most of Yukon and British Columbia, extending into western Northwest Territories. The Interior Plains, comprising low-lying plateaus and extensive wetlands, includes a portion of Yukon, much of the Northwest Territories, Alberta, and southern parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. With its characteristic exposed bedrock, lakes and swamps, the Canadian Shield includes eastern parts of the Northwest Territories, southern parts of Nunavut, and much of Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

FIGURE 3: The NRTEE program focused on Canada?s territorial North

Permafrost: Permafrost and associated ground ice is a major influence on natural processes (e.g., formation of landscapes, streams and river systems) and human activities (e.g., infrastructure development, energy and mining activity) in Canada?s North. Continuous permafrost, sometimes hundreds of metres in thickness, underlies the northern parts of the region; the extent and thickness of permafrost becomes more irregular in southern parts (see Figure 3).

Freshwater: Canada?s North contains abundant freshwater resources: by area, about 37 per cent of the Canadian total; 20 per cent of Canada?s wetlands; and the largest river basin in the country (the Mackenzie River basin, covering 1,805,200 km2).[14] Ice cover develops on lakes and rivers on a seasonal basis. In some parts of the Far North, the ice does not fully thaw and builds up over time.

Marine Environment: Northern seas include the Arctic Ocean, the Beaufort Sea, Hudson Bay, Foxe Basin, Baffin Bay, the Lincoln Sea, and the channels and straits in the Arctic Archipelago (see Figure 3). These waters encompass three of Canada?s five marine ecozones, ecologically distinct zones with characteristic plant and animal life and physical features.[15] Northern seas remain frozen on a seasonal to multi-year basis, in some cases developing sea ice several metres in thickness.

Terrestrial Environment: As a final example of the biophysical diversity of Canada?s North, the region includes eight of Canada?s fifteen terrestrial ecozones, encompassing a range of plants, wildlife, climate, and landforms. Table 4 illustrates key characteristics of the three ecozones in which the three territorial capitals are located.

Table 4: Portraying the region?s natural diversity
Boreal Cordillera Taiga Shield Northern Arctic
Examples of
Most of Yukon?s population,
including the City of
Yellowknife (Northwest
Territories), Uranium
City (Saskatchewan), and
Churchill Falls and Labrador
City (Labrador)
About twenty of Nunavut?s
communities, including the
City of Iqaluit
Landforms Extensive mountains with
glacier-covered plateaus
and valleys separated by
wide lowlands
Rolling hills of ancient bedrock,
dotted with millions of
lakes and wetlands
Barren plains, broad
plateaus in the interior.
Permafrost is pervasive

Long, cold winters and
short, cool summers

At higher elevations (above
the tree line), cold, windy,
and snowy

Subarctic climate of long,
cold winters; short, cool
summers; and low to moderate
Very cold and dry

Snow on the ground
for most of the year
Wildlife & plants

Moose, woodland caribou,
mountain goat, stone and
dall sheep, willow ptarmigan

White spruce, sub-alpine
fir, pine and aspen. Scrub
birch and willows at higher

Barren ground caribou,
black and grizzly bear,
snowshoe hare

Open forests of black
spruce, jack pine, paper
birch, and trembling aspen.
Lichen and shrubs on bare

Muskox, Peary and barrenground
caribou, polar bear,
snow geese, arctic hare,
collared lemming

Sparse vegetation ? includes
sedges, mosses, lichens,
Arctic poppy

Sources: Furgal and Prowse (2008); Environment Canada ? State of the Environment Infobase: Ecozones of Canada.

People and Economies

Where people live and how they earn their living are central considerations in any region?s capacity to adapt to climate change. The population of Canada?s North is sparse but more or less distributed across the land base, with coastal and navigation access dominating settlement patterns. About 108,000 people live in the three northern territories, representing about 0.3 per cent of Canada?s population. [16] Territorial capitals account for about 45 per cent of the population of Canada?s North, although the population density in capital cities differs among the three territories. Seventy per cent of Yukon?s population lives in Whitehorse, whereas only about 20 per cent of Nunavut?s population lives in Iqaluit. In fact, the majority of Nunavut residents live in settlements of fewer than 1,000 people.[17] Coastal and navigation access has shaped settlement patterns, with two-thirds of northern communities currently located along coastlines. In Nunavut, all communities but one are coastal.

The population of Canada?s North is younger than Canada?s as a whole. Median ages for Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Canada are 38, 31, 23, and 40 years respectively. Birth rates in the region have declined over the past 50 years, but remain high by national standards. At twice the national average, Nunavut?s fertility rate has several implications for demands on public infrastructure, particularly schools, recreational facilities, and hospitals.[18] Population projections suggest that the Northwest Territories will experience the highest growth rates among the three territories in the next couple of decades.[19] From a community perspective, accommodating these rates of growth through new housing and services can be challenging. A rapid influx of people to a community because of a boom in economic activity is especially difficult to absorb.

Aboriginal representation in Canada?s North is much greater than in Canada as a whole. About 85 per cent of Nunavut?s population self-identifies as Aboriginal, 50 per cent in the Northwest Territories, and 25 per cent in Yukon, with the relative representation of First Nations, Mtis, and Inuit differing across the three territories (Table 5, Table 6). The relative mix of Aboriginal to non-Aboriginal people in Canada?s North, particularly in Yukon and the Northwest Territories, has changed considerably over the past 50 years due to industrial development and the transfer to the North of responsibilities to administer and manage northern lands, waters, wildlife and other natural resources.

Table 5: Aboriginal proportion of the North?s population
Canada Yukon Northwest
Aboriginal 4% 25% 50% 85%
Non-Aboriginal 96% 75% 50% 15%

?Aboriginal? refers to people who self-identified with at least one Aboriginal group (First Nation, Mtis, or Inuit) and/or have registered Indian status and/or have First Nations or band membership.
Source: Statistics Canada ? Census 2006 ? Community Profiles.

Table 6: Categories of Aboriginal cultural groups inhabiting the North
Yukon Northwest
First Nations 83% 61% 0%
Mtis 11% 17% 1%
Inuit 3% 20% 99%

Percentages may not add up to 100, as the table excludes responses other than those pertaining to the three major Aboriginal groups.
Source: Statistics Canada ? Census 2006 ? Community Profiles.

A number of socio-economic indicators both point to the diversity of situations across Canada?s North and to constraints in the capacity of northerners, communities, and governments in planning for and effectively coping with change regardless of the source.

Health Status: The health status of Northern Canadians ? Nunavut residents and Aboriginal northerners, in particular ? is lower than the national average on a number of accounts. Life expectancy in Canada?s North is lower than the Canadian average; infant mortality rates are higher in Yukon and Nunavut; and mortality rates due to accidental injury are 1.7 to 3.4 times the national average.[20] Greater participation in land-based activities partly explains the relatively high number of deaths due to accidental injury. Suicide rates in Yukon and the Northwest Territories are nearly double the rate for Canada. The situation is worse for Nunavut, where the suicide rate is close to nine times that for Canada.[21] Cultural traditions, personal habits, and changing diets also influence health status.

Access to Services: The provision of public services in Canada?s North is costly. This relates to distances to markets, low population densities, relatively small pools of skills, limited transportation options, and associated diseconomies of scale. Elevated costs in turn affect availability of and access to services. For example, the availability of medical practitioners on a per capita basis is much lower in Canada?s North than in any other Canadian region.[22] Table 7 compares expenditures in public services by local (municipal) governments, who, in the absence of a property tax base, largely depend on transfer payments and contributions from external sources.

Table 7: Cost of providing northern services
Local (municipal) government expenditures (2007) Canada Yukon Northwest Territories Nunavut
Total expenditures in 2007 ($ per capita)* 3,406 2,198 4,830 4,961
General government services 209 384 549 798
Protection of persons and property 333 341 196 164
Transportation and communication 420 465 570 1,096
Health 51 5 43 106
Resource conservation and industrial development 44 22 35 50
Environment 378 341 916 1,212
Recreation and culture 260 431 555 627
Housing 71 141 87 334
Regional planning and development 42 28 52 256
Source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM, table 385-0003, accessed April 19, 2009. *The table shows total expenditures and a subset of specific expenditures.

Education and Skills: Education levels and distribution of skills in Canada?s North vary across the region. Education levels in Yukon are similar to those achieved nationally, but are lower for the Northwest Territories and particularly Nunavut. One of every two Canadians over the age of 15 completes some form of post-secondary education; in Nunavut, the figure is one in three.[23] In aggregate, the skills base in Canada?s North in disciplines germane to physical infrastructure is comparable to the national make-up (Figure 4), with an under-representation in Nunavut of people trained in architecture, engineering, and related technologies; and business, management, and public administration. Inter-regional disparities in education and skills exist and should not be overlooked, particularly in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. For example, post-secondary completion rates in Fort Good Hope (Northwest Territories) and Hall Beach (Nunavut), two communities of over 500 people, are far below the respective territorial averages. In addition to formal education and skills development, community residents apply local and traditional knowledge to resource management issues and in coping with environmental change.

FIGURE 4: Education and skills vary across Canada?s three territories

Income, Employment, and Industry: Northern Canadians derive income from both wage-earning and traditional land-based renewable resource subsistence activities, and increasingly more so from the former. New government administration and the relatively recent development of global industries such as mining, oil and gas development, and tourism contribute significantly to the region?s gross domestic product, including capital expenditures. Aboriginal economic development corporations are important contributors of wealth creation, participating in economic development as business owners, operators, investors, and joint venture partners. Economic indicators on a per capita basis surpass national averages; however, these are an inadequate indicator of wealth distribution (see Table 8). For example, local communities may benefit from employment opportunities, but many of the revenues from natural resource extraction flow elsewhere. Long-term unemployment rates for all three territories exceed the national average. Traditional subsistence activities, such as hunting and trapping, contribute to household incomes and are important to the social fabric of communities in all three territories.

Table 8: Northern socio-economic indicators contrasted with Canadian averages
Canada Yukon Northwest Territories Nunavut
Per capita Gross Domestic Product ($), 2007 46,637 54,202 109,793 44,281
Per capita public and private capital expenditures ($), 2008 10,387 18,272 41,561 40,936
Unemployment rate % (labour force 15 years and older), 2006 6.6 9.4 10.4 15.6
Earnings as a % of total income (labour force 15 years and older), 2006 76.2 83.9 90 86.5
Government transfers as a % of total income (labour force 15 years and older), 2006 11.1 8.7 6.1 11.2
Government transfers as a % of total income (Aboriginal labour force 15 years and older), 2006 18.1 15.5 11.7 17.5
Average value per pelt of fur produced from wildlife ($), 2006 24.6 76.3 54.5 53.1

Sources: Statistics Canada, CANSIM, table 384-0002 and Catalogue no. 13-213-PPB; Statistics Canada, CANSIM, table 029-0005 and Catalogue no. 61-205-XIB; Statistics Canada ? Census 2006 ? Community Profiles; Statistics Canada, CANSIM, table 003-0013 and Catalogue no. 23-013-XIE.

2.3 Impact Drivers

"Change over the past 50 years has been rapid. Modern transportation and communications, institutionalized education and participation in the wage economy have had a major impact on language and culture for many Northerners. Many of us have moved from living on the land to participating in the global economy. Others have become respected international spokespersons for the environment and the richness of our unique cultures. Old and new ways of life are continuously finding a modern rhythm ? a testament to our resilience, innovative spirit and willingness to work in partnership."
- A Northern Vision: A Stronger North and a Better Canada (2007).

Canada?s North has been subject to rapid transformation over the past several decades. It?s important to place climate change in this context. Potential strategies and actions to adapt to climate change require consideration of three main factors: evolving northern governance and the role of Aboriginal peoples, a shifting geopolitical landscape with renewed issues of sovereignty and security, and new opportunities for economic development, which will bring additional stresses to both the natural and built environments.

Evolving Northern Governance

For the past few decades, governance and government institutions in Canada?s North have undergone profound changes, characterized by the devolution of province-like powers to all three territories and land claims and self-governance agreements with Aboriginal peoples.[24] Constitutionally, territorial governments are subordinate to the federal Parliament and do not have exclusive legislative authority. Devolution of authority from the Government of Canada to the territories is a process that started with Yukon. The Government of Canada has now transferred to all three northern territories powers for many programs, including education, social services, health, transportation, local government, and economic development. Since April 1, 2003, the Yukon government exercises substantive administrative control ? but not ownership ? of surface and sub-surface natural resources on public lands in the territory. The governments of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have yet to gain this right.

Comprehensive land claims and self-government agreements ? modern treaties ? are constitutionally entrenched pacts between northern Aboriginal peoples and Canada and, therefore, key components of northern governance. Their status varies across the territories, and many are in early stages of implementation.25 In Yukon, the umbrella land claims agreement of 1993 served as a negotiating template for 14 First Nations. To date, all but three Yukon First Nations have concluded self-government agreements.26 A few claims of First Nations from the Northwest Territories and northern British Columbia extend into Yukon jurisdiction. In the Northwest Territories, negotiations of land claim and self-government agreements have concluded in some cases, but others are still pending. In Nunavut, the Inuit land claim was negotiated in 1993 and gave rise to the creation of the territory itself in 1999. Through these modern treaties, Aboriginal peoples receive a range of rights and benefits that vary from agreement to agreement. These include representation on decision-making bodies to manage land, water, wildlife, and to assess the environmental and social impacts of development, and infrastructure- related responsibilities such as capital assets management and inspections.

The evolving nature of governance systems in Canada?s North is unlike the situation in southern Canada, where relatively well-established municipal, provincial, and federal government institutions exist. This has several implications for climate change adaptation. For example, governments may need to determine who is responsible for building overall capacity to adapt and for paying for the implementation of adaptive measures. Inter-jurisdictional collaboration to avoid working at cross-purposes and to plan for and implement adaptive measures in areas of shared jurisdiction is also important. Assessing the potential consequences of the impacts of climate change on transboundary or resource-sharing agreements is another likely area of concern for northern stakeholders. Chapter 4 includes further discussion on roles of government in adaptation.

Shifting Geopolitical Landscape

Canada?s North is no longer an isolated region at the periphery of the global economy, but rather a region poised to assume greater geopolitical and economic importance. A changing climate alters accessibility to the region?s oil and gas resource potential and to enhanced navigation options through increasingly open Arctic waters. For Canada, both prospects raise a series of challenges related to gaps in scientific knowledge on the potential consequences of enhanced traffic and resource development on ecosystems, human health, and culture. Other challenges include potential gaps in policy and regulations (e.g., border controls, emergency response capacity), physical infrastructure, and in regional capacity to shape and deliver on new management regimes. For Canada and the other seven Arctic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States), the emergence of the Arctic as a policy arena is a matter of foreign, national, and regional policy.

In recent years, the Arctic story in Canada has tended to focus on questions of national control and resource exploitation. Media hype and, to a lesser extent, political discourse capture the imagination of the Canadian public in the south on two fronts: the opportunity to tap into the wealth underlying the region and in its oceans, and the perception of competition among Arctic nations in establishing and protecting sovereign interests. Headlines such as ?Russia Ahead in Arctic Gold Rush? and political declarations of Canada as an ?Arctic superpower? tend to downplay that international cooperation is essential to stewardship of the Arctic.[27] National action would not be enough to ensure marine transportation safety and secure lines of communication in support of resource extraction and shipping activities. Nor would unilateral action be a very effective or efficient way of monitoring and managing transboundary processes, such as movement of fish stocks and long-range pollution.

A few examples reveal the cooperative approach of Arctic nations on scientific and policy fronts. The International Polar Year built on existing joint scientific work on Arctic issues, supporting the collaborative development of maps depicting different physical and biological features of the Arctic Ocean.[28] Much of this and related work continues, which is important considering the key role a common scientific basis plays in facilitating consensus across jurisdictions on tough policy issues. Arctic nations, including Canada, have stated their commitment to work on shared policy goals through existing institutions such as the Arctic Council and multi-lateral and bi-lateral channels. For example, the 2008 Ilulissat Declaration underscores the commitment of the five Arctic coastal nations to abide by the provisions in the Law of the Sea, including ?rights and obligations concerning the delineation of the outer limits of the continental shelf, the protection of the marine environment, including ice-covered areas, freedom of navigation, marine scientific research, and other uses of the sea.?[29] In some cases Arctic coastal nations work together to acquire the data to support their claims.

Countries lacking direct ties to the Arctic are interested and engaged in Arctic processes, and this speaks to the region?s geopolitical importance. Italy, Japan, South Korea, China and India are among the growing list of interested countries.[30] In addition to carrying out Arctic research, South Korea, for example, sees opportunities in commercial shipping and marine transportation.[31] Both South Korea and Japan are seeking observer status at the Arctic Council.[32] As another example, Canada and the United Kingdom recently signed a memorandum of understanding for collaboration on polar (Arctic and Antarctic) research, to include scientific exchanges and sharing of research infrastructure.[33] The European Union has issued an Arctic policy statement and strategy, in recognition of the rapid environmental change in the region and related implications for ?international stability and European security interests.?[34] In general, international interests fall in three main areas: exploring the role of natural Arctic processes in driving global climate change; learning about the potential adverse effects on ecosystems, human activities, human security, as well as opportunities from the impacts of climate change in the Arctic; and positioning themselves to capitalize on economic opportunities. The federal government recently announced Canada?s Northern Strategy, outlining a new vision for the North as a ?healthy, prosperous and secure region within a strong and sovereign Canada.?[35] It builds on the federal Integrated Northern Strategy and related investments to address gaps in knowledge, physical infrastructure, and military capacity. Going forward, strengthening northern capacity to play an important role on the international stage while furthering sustainable regional development interests is likely. Existing institutions give scope to this kind of co-management approach. The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement acknowledges the Inuit contribution in asserting Canada?s Arctic sovereignty, with provisions for enhancing monitoring and management of the offshore. Growing Opportunities for Economic Development Rising global demand for energy and other resources enhances opportunities for economic development in Canada?s North. Long-term trends in global energy consumption indicate a continued demand for fossil fuels with a greater portion of the demand coming from emerging economies reliant on energy imports.[36] Canada?s North could contribute to supplying this growing demand with its significant conventional oil and natural gas deposits (see Table 9).[37] Efforts to advance the production of reserves in the Mackenzie Delta and Beaufort Sea and the construction of one or more large-diameter gas pipelines in the Mackenzie Valley and along the Alaska Highway began almost five decades ago. These could be in place and operational in the latter part of the next decade. Aside from fossil fuels, the region holds significant hydroelectric potential. The Northwest Territories, for example, has developed less than one per cent of its potential.[38]

Table 9: Northern oil and gas resources
Crude oil (millions of barrels) Yukon Northwest Territories Nunavut
Production 2005 (mb/yr) None 7 None
Production forecast 2020 (mb/yr) None 7 None
Proven reserves 10 1,500 523
Natural gas (billion cubic feet) Yukon Northwest Territories Nunavut
Production 2005 (bcfb/yr) 7 18 None
Production forecast 2020 (bcf/yr) No forecast 694 345
Proven reserves 84 11,000 12,300
Source: The Council of the Federation (2007).

Canada?s North is also home to abundant mineral deposits. Six mines are currently operating in the region, but they are hardly representative of the region?s potential (see Table 10). In the last ten years, Canada has become the fourth largest global producer of high-quality diamonds from mines in the Northwest Territories and now Nunavut. Significant reserves of precious and base metals have been proven in all three territories, with deposits including gold, zinc, lead, copper, silver, barium, tungsten, uranium, and iron. In 2007, the three territories accounted for over 20 per cent of spending on mineral exploration in Canada.[39] Twelve mines are awaiting regulatory permits and over 200 mineral deposits are in the exploration phase. The proposed construction of a port and associated road at Bathurst Inlet in Nunavut would facilitate access to several of these deposits. The production of long-discovered high-grade iron mines on Baffin Island may also become more attractive if warmer temperatures help to lengthen the shipping season. The combination of new mining sites and shorter ice-road seasons will likely add to the pressure to develop all-season roads, as has taken place north of Baker Lake (Nunavut).

Table 10: Mining?s continued significant role
Closed sites Operating mines Under review In exploration phase
Yukon 13 1 4 150
Northwest Territories 32-33 4 5 45
Nunavut 6 1 (under construction) 3 20
Sources: M. Burke, Yukon Geological Survey; R. Silke, Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines; Goff et al. (2008).

However, the prospects for an economic boom to materialize in the near term are questionable, however. Several barriers to further large-scale resource development exist, which translate into higher costs of doing business in Canada?s North. These include challenges to operating in cold climates, lack of linking infrastructure, distance to markets, and, social, regulatory, and environmental risks. Uncertainty in decision-making timelines is an acute challenge, particularly in an era of global financial markets and competition in attracting capital for alternative projects elsewhere in Canada. Current measures to promote resource development include publicly funded geoscience activities, the creation of a cold climate innovation centre in Yukon, and investment incentives such as tax credits and low corporate tax rates.[40] The potential environmental and social consequences of large-scale development in the region also figure into the equation and may delay decisions and project implementation, as will considerations on the equitable distribution of benefits from resource extraction.[41] The lasting impacts of the Alaska Highway project illustrate the range of social and environmental problems linked to large-scale development in Canada?s North. In the early 1940s the United States Army built a highway via Yukon and Northern British Columbia, connecting Alaska to the contiguous US. The project ended up including a pipeline and refinery to fuel highway construction. Construction took place over about a year, during which time the population of Whitehorse grew from fewer than 500 to over 20,000.[42] Such a rapid influx overwhelmed municipal services, fostering the spread of disease, and left a legacy of project-related buildings and equipment. For First Nations in the territory, the impacts of this project were mixed: they became a minority and less able to rely on their traditional ways, but they gained access to services such as health care. Wildlife populations declined significantly because of the project, both from increased hunting and destruction of ecosystems.

As a strategy to promote stability in economic development through ?boom and bust? cycles of largescale resource development, northerners are also taking advantage of more sustainable and smallerscale economic activity. Tourism, for example, is an emerging industry in Canada?s North. The Government of Canada?s Invest in Canada portal emphasizes investment opportunities in tour operations, restaurant and hotel management, and infrastructure investment, focusing on the region?s cultural heritage and natural endowments. The territories? tourism promotion strategies highlight the pristine nature of the region and opportunities for experience-based tourism, which appeals to post-material values of wealthier travellers (Figure 5). Sustaining growth in the sector is not without challenges. Increasing inflows of tourists from Arctic cruises or of visitors to national parks place great demands on communities and the services that they can supply (e.g., Pond Inlet next to Sirmilik National Park). Increased navigability of Arctic waters resulting from a changing climate could increases cruise-shipping potential, although continued sea-ice hazards and public infrastructure requirements are factors that could curtail growth. Increased access to northern tourism amenities and enhanced visitation also poses threats to sensitive ecosystems, an important consideration for any tourism promotion strategy and park management plan.

FIGURE 5: Nature and culture figure prominently in tourism promotion

2.4 Conclusions

Our brief overview of the region and its peoples, indicators of northern adaptive capacity, and pressures that northern stakeholders are experiencing, allows us to make a few observations relevant to climate change adaptation:

  • Strategies to address the impacts of climate change targeting Canada?s North must be flexible enough to accommodate the incredible cultural, social, political, and economic diversity represented in the region. In some cases, pan-northern strategies may be less appropriate than efforts to leverage action across north-south borders.
  • Because of the enormous distances between settlements across the region and sometimes unreliable or limited supply of goods and services, enhancing community-level resilience in the face of change is key.
  • Governments, communities, and businesses operating in the region may defer the implementation of adaptation strategies, instead investing financial resources and human capacity in addressing priorities that are higher in profile. Mainstreaming adaptation into existing or newly formed institutions, such as regulatory processes, asset management plans, resource management, and community plans, can help prepare for the impacts of climate change alongside other priorities. Evidence shows that mainstreaming is already starting to take place. For example, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board allocates considerable resources to support adaptation.
  • Given constraints in human capacity and finances, investments in adaptation strategies or actions that yield social, environmental, or economic benefits regardless of climate change should be a priority, as should opportunities to learn from and contribute to international initiatives.

?We feel vulnerable here. We have no place to take refuge; no hills to climb, our airport does not accommodate larger planes, and we do not have a helicopter available to us.?
? Participant at October 2007 program meeting in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut

"I have heard southerners say, ?Well, they know how to adapt [to climate change] in the North.? Well, yes, if we were out living on the land, but our younger generation does not live out on the land, and it is harder to adapt to what is going on around the world and in the community. The people who say we know how to adapt obviously do not study the mental, social, and economic changes that are arising."
?Participant at October 2007 NRTEE program meeting in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut

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4 IPCC (2007); Hansen et al. (2004).

5 These studies include the Canada Country Study (Mayor and Avis 1998), the report Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation: A Canadian Perspective (Lemmen and Warren 2004), From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007 (Lemmen et al. 2008), and Human Health in a Changing Climate (Sguin 2008).

6 Arctic Council (2009).

7 D.S. Lemmen, personal communication, May 19, 2009.

8 McBean et al. (2005), IPCC (2007).

9 Cassano et al. (2006); Hakkinen et al. (2008).

10 Estimates are from Natural Resources Canada, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, GeoAccess Division (2001). See http://atlas. nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/ learningresources/ facts/surfareas.html

11 Furgal and Prowse (2008).

12 Environment Canada, State of the Environment Infobase http://www.ec.gc.ca/soer-ree/English/Framework/Nardesc/canada_e.cfm accessed June 2, 2009.

13 Environment Canada, Canadian Climate Normals 1971-2000. http://www.climate.weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca/climate_normals/index_e.html accessed June 2, 2009.

14 Estimates are from Natural Resources Canada, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, GeoAccess Division (2001). See http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/learningresources/facts/surfareas.html

15 Environment Canada, State of the Environment Infobase http://www.ec.gc.ca/soer-ree/English/Vignettes/Marine/marine.cfm accessed April 2, 2009.

16 This is according to Statistics Canada?s population estimates for 2009. See http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/090623/t090623a2-eng.htm.

17 Unless otherwise noted, the demographic statistics cited are estimates from Statistics Canada?s Census 2006 Community Profiles.

18 See Statistics Canada?s Canada Yearbook ? Population and Demography http://www41.statcan.gc.ca/2007/3867/ceb3867_000_e.htm accessed April 19, 2009.

19 For further detail on population projections to 2030, see http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-520-x/91-520-x2005001-eng.pdf Accessed June 2, 2009.

20 Furgal and Prowse (2008).

21 Estimated from Statistics Canada (2006). Mortality, summary list of causes, 2003. Health Statistics Division. Catalogue no. 84F0209XIE.

22 Statistics Canada (2002). The health of Canada?s communities. Catalogue 82-003. Health Reports, 13 (Supplement).

23 Estimated from: Statistics Canada ? Census 2006 ? Community Profiles.

24 This section is based on Northern Canada Consulting (2007), a report commissioned by the NRTEE. Governance refers to societal or organizational processes guiding decision making, stakeholder involvement, and accountability (Institute on Governance: web content accessed on April 21, 2009).

25 Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) summarizes the status of land claims and related provisions in: INAC (2007), available at: http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/al/ldc/ccl/pubs/gbn/gbn-eng.asp.

26 For detailed information on individual First Nations Final Agreements, see the website of the Council of Yukon First Nations at http://www.cyfn.ca/ouragreementsfnfa?noCache=664:1246739574.

27 "Russia Ahead in Arctic Gold Rush,? Paul Reynolds, BBC, 1 August 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/6925853.stm accessed April 22, 2009.

28 Examples of products include the Arctic Geology map recently released (available at http://apps1.gdr.nrcan.gc.ca/mirage/ db_results_e.php Map Number 5816) and the Arctic Ocean Bathymetry map (available at http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/bathymetry/arctic/arctic.html)

29 http://www.oceanlaw.org/downloads/arctic/Ilulissat_Declaration.pdf Accessed April 22, 2009.

30 Minister Cannon Outlines Canada?s Arctic Foreign Policy, March 11, 2009. Accessed April 22, 2009. http://w01.international.gc.ca/minpub/Publication.aspx?

31 http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/special/2009/04/176_29902.html. Accessed April 22, 2009.

32 http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20090420TDY03104.html. Accessed April 22, 2009.

33 http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ai/mr/nr/j-a2009/nr000000183-eng.asp Accessed April 22, 2009.

34 The European Union?s policy priorities with respect to the Arctic are available at http://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/arctic_overview_en.html

35 Government of Canada (2009). http://www.northernstrategy.ca/index-eng.asp Accessed August 10, 2009. The four priorities identified in the strategy are: exercising our Arctic sovereignty; protecting our environmental heritage; promoting social and economic development; and, improving and devolving Northern governance.

36 International Energy Agency (2008) http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/docs/weo2008/fact_sheets_08.pdf Accessed April 22, 2009.

37 The table does not include figures for non-traditional reserves of natural gas, so-called gas hydrates, which are ice-like substances made of water and natural gas. Natural Resources Canada and other research organizations are investigating the challenges and opportunities of developing this resource. See http://gsc.nrcan.gc.ca/permafrost/arcticgas_e.php for more information on Arctic gas hydrate research.

38 Government of the Northwest Territories (2009) http://www.iti.gov.nt.ca/Publications/2008/energy/HYDROSTRATEGY.pdf Accessed August 10, 2009.

39 For further information, see Natural Resources Canada?s Overview of Trends in Canadian Mineral Exploration 2008. Available at: http://www.nrcan-rncan.gc.ca/mms-smm/busi-indu/cme-omc-eng.htm

40 For further information on marketing strategies and investment priorities, see the Government of Canada?s Invest in Canada web portal: http://investincanada.gc.ca/eng/explore-our-regions/northern-canada.aspx

41 A recent report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment, and Natural Resources, With Respect, Canada?s North, concludes that northerners must play an integral part in decisions on future economic development in the region, including provisions for environmental and cultural protection.

42 See http://www.alaskahighwayarchives.ca./en/index.php for further information.