by Carolyn Sloan
Northern News Services
Published Friday, August 22, 2008
NUNAVUT - Collaboration in Canada's North is bringing the concept of climate change down to earth, linking scientific research with local knowledge.
Under the leadership of the Government of Nunavut, researchers from National Resources Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Institute of Planners, are working with hamlets across Nunavut to create climate change adaptation plans for individual communities as well as for the territory as a whole.
Levi Kannaq and Don Forbes conduct sea-level rise and coastal erosion studies in Hall Beach. - photo courtesy of Natural Resources Canada
In Clyde River, the Ittaq Heritage and Research Centre co-ordinated a series of public meetings and delegated responsibility for each part of the action plan to various groups within the community.
Some of the concerns that were raised centred around transportation and outdoor survival.
"Transportation is going to become an issue because with less ice...it might be more dangerous - you might have to take different routes," said Ittaq's co-chair Nick Illauq.
Along these lines, Ittaq hopes to establish portable weather stations that run on solar power and wind energy. By networking the stations, the people of Clyde River could access data from communities across the region.
The unpredictability of the weather also means that traditional survival skills are becoming more important.
"More people are getting lost or going missing and we've got to teach them how to survive on the land using traditional ways," saids Illauq. "It (the weather) is becoming more unpredictable, so knowing how to survive out there is becoming an asset."
Researchers from Natural Resources are focusing on four central climate change studies. The first study looks at the impacts of sea level rise and coastal erosion, which is especially significant in communities like Hall Beach where houses are at the water's edge.
The second study assesses the effects of climate change on watersheds and the levels of precipitation, while the third study is part of a broader international effort to understand how vegetation is changing and how this change will affect animal life.
The final research component looks at issues around permafrost and land instability.
The impetus behind the research project came from a climate change adaptation workshop held in Iqaluit in the summer of 2006, when representatives from communities across the territory were brought together to discuss the local impacts of climate change.
From this initial feedback, the GN began to develop the priorities of its action plan on climate change adaptation. It was also at this time that the communities of Hall Beach, Clyde River and Iqaluit stepped forward to pilot the project by working with researchers to develop their own adaptation plans.
Natural Resources project leader Dave Mate sees the community-based research in the three communities as making an important connection between climate change research and its significance at the local level.
"The way we look at it is that one of the most important things for my project is to develop a close working relationship with partners at the community level that have decision-making power," he said. "We provide them with technical information and they apply research in a way that's most relevant to the community."
"The GN is very happy that we have all these partnerships and we look forward to making more partnerships," said Lee Ann Pugh, the Government of Nunavut's climate change co-ordinator. "We're pretty much feeling the full impacts full force. The need to adapt is pretty important."
She added the government recently released a discussion paper that will be part of a draft climate change adaption plan, which is expected to be ready by October of this year. In the near future, they will be looking for more communities ready to tackle adaptation plans of their own.
"We have spoken to most of the communities in Nunavut, but we never got a chance to sit down and really talk," said Pugh. "So that's what we would like to do."