7.9.2 Climate change and the North

Climate change is unequivocal; the earth’s temperature is rising, causing changes in weather patterns and meteorological events of increased frequency and intensity.1 There is strong evidence that the Canadian Arctic is already experiencing changes in its climate.1

Indigenous youth – and all Indigenous people – have a strong dependence upon, and close relationship with, the environment and its resources.  Because of this, they are directly impacted by climate change.1

Climate change is expected to result in changes in the availability of water, terrestrial and freshwater species, communities and ecosystems; changes in sea levels and declines in ice volume; and rising temperatures, increased fire activity, and greater unpredictability of weather.

These changes are likely to cause adverse health impacts from heat-related mortality, injuries and fatalities, and the spread of vector-borne infectious diseases.2

1Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (IPCC). (2013): Summary for policymakers. In T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boshung et al. (eds.), Climate change 2013: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group 1 to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK & New York, NY: Cambridge University Press,.
2Lemmen, D.S., Warren, F.J., Lacroix, J., & Bush, E. (eds.). (2008). From impacts to adaptation: Canada in a changing climate 2007. Ottawa, ON:Government of Canada.
3Warren, F.J., & Lemmen, D.S. (eds.). (2014): Canada in a changing climate: sector perspectives on impacts and adaptation. Government of Canada, Ottawa, ON.

Indigenous youth in the north are particularly vulnerable to climate change; the warmer climate is threatening the health and safety of Inuit people. Climate change will impact northern youth and families in a number of ways. It will affect their traditional practices; for example, thinning ice, thawing of permafrost, rising sea levels, and erosion of land will impact the availability of food, water and sources of traditional medicine. Melting sea ice and permafrost are damaging houses and health centres.  Climate change is also impacting the availability of traditional wildlife – which are food sources.  Climate change is also affecting safety, leaving Inuit more vulnerable to injuries and death because unpredictable weather makes travelling more dangerous. Climate change will affect the livelihood of youth and their families, as well as their relationship with the land and their culture.3