Can we adapt to climate change in the Canadian Arctic?
8 May 2014
Gold Coast campus
The Arctic’s climate is changing rapidly, to the extent that ‘dangerous’ climate change as defined by the United Nations Framework on Climate Change might already be occurring. These changes are having implications for Canada’s Inuit population and are being exacerbated by the dependence of Inuit on biophysical resources for livelihoods and the low socio-economic–health status of many northern communities. In the context of projections of a rapidly changing climate in the future, this paper asks the question: Can we adapt to climate change in the Canadian Arctic? Drawing upon community-based vulnerability assessments in all Inuit regions of Canada and extensive interviews with policy makers at multiple levels, it is argued that many of the determinants of Inuit vulnerability represent barriers to adaptation which can be addressed through community-led initiatives and broader policy support mechanisms. Traditional knowledge (TK), for instance, continues to underpin community resilience to changing climatic realities, yet the skills and cultural values embodied in TK are increasingly not being transmitted to younger generations. Herein, the talk will profile examples of efforts to document, preserve, and promote TK for adaptation. Limits to adaptation are also evident for which there few policies beyond slowing down climate change through mitigation that can help moderate impacts.
Dr James Ford is an Assistant Professor in Geography at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, where he leads the Climate Change Adaptation Research Group (www.jamesford.ca). His research focuses on climate change vulnerability and adaptation, with a specific interest in the North, and his work has been published in 72 peer reviewed articles since 2003.
Dr Tristan Pearce is a CRN Fellow in Geography with the Sustainability Research Centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) and Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Geography at the University of Guelph, Canada. His research focuses on the human dimensions of global environmental change with a specific focus in the Arctic where he has long-term research relationships with Inuit communities that span over ten years.