The adaptation challenge in the Arctic

2015 November 28

Ford, J.D., McDowell, G., and Pearce, T. (2015). Find PDF here. Nature Climate Change. 5, 1046-1053.

It is commonly asserted that human communities in the Arctic are highly vulnerable to climate change, with the magnitude of projected impacts limiting their ability to adapt. At the same time, an increasing number of field studies demonstrate significant adaptive capacity. Given this paradox, we review climate change adaptation, resilience and vulnerability research to identify and characterize the nature and magnitude of the adaptation challenge facing the Arctic. We find that the challenge of adaptation in the Arctic is formidable, but suggest that drivers of vulnerability and barriers to adaptation can be overcome, avoided or reduced by individual and collective efforts across scales for many, if not all, climate change risks.

Community-based adaptation research in the Canadian Arctic

2015 November 28

Ford, J.D., Stephenson, E., Cunsolo-Willox, A., Edge, V.L., Farahbakhsh, K., Furgal, C., Harper, S., Chatwood, S., Mauro, I., Pearce, T., Austin, S., Bunce, A., Bussalleu, A., Diaz, J., Finner, K., Gordon, A., Huet, C., Kitching, K., Lardeau, MP., McDowell, G., McDonald, H. Nakoneczny, L., and Sherman, M. (2015). find PDF here. WIREs Climate Change.


Community‐based adaptation (CBA) has emerged over the last decade as an approach to empowering communities to plan for and cope with the impacts of climate change. While such approaches have been widely advocated, few have critically examined the tensions and challenges that CBA brings. Responding to this gap, this article critically examines the use of CBA approaches with Inuit communities in Canada. We suggest that CBA holds significant promise to make adaptation research more democratic and responsive to local needs, providing a basis for developing locally appropriate adaptations based on local/indigenous and Western knowledge. Yet, we argue that CBA is not a panacea, and its common portrayal as such obscures its limitations, nuances, and challenges. Indeed, if uncritically adopted, CBA can potentially lead to maladaptation, may be inappropriate in some instances, can legitimize outside intervention and control, and may further marginalize communities. We identify responsibilities for researchers engaging in CBA work to manage these challenges, emphasizing the centrality of how knowledge is generated, the need for project flexibility and openness to change, and the importance of ensuring partnerships between researchers and communities are transparent. Researchers also need to be realistic about what CBA can achieve, and should not assume that research has a positive role to play in community adaptation just because it utilizes participatory approaches.

National-level progress on adaptation

2015 November 9

Lesnikowski A, Ford JD, Biesbroek R, Berrang-Ford L, and Heymann JS. (2015). Find pdf here. Nature Climate Change. doi:10.1038/nclimate2863


It is increasingly evident that adaptation will figure prominently in the post-2015 United Nations climate change agreement1, 2. As adaptation obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change evolve, more rigorous approaches to measuring adaptation progress among parties will be critical. In this Letter we elaborate on an emerging area of research referred to as ‘adaptation tracking’, which has potential to inform development of a global adaptation monitoring framework3. We evaluate this potential by presenting evidence on policy change for 41 high-income countries between 2010 and 2014. We examine whether countries that were in early stages of adaptation planning in 2010 are making progress to close adaptation gaps, and how the landscape of adaptation in these countries has evolved. In total we find an 87% increase in reported adaptation policies and measures, and evidence that implementation of concrete adaptation initiatives is growing. Reflecting on the strengths and challenges of this early methodology, we further discuss how adaptation tracking practices could guide development of a robust framework for monitoring global adaptation progress and inform future research on policy change across countries.

Adaptation tracking for a post-2015 climate agreement

2015 November 4

Ford JD, Berrang-Ford L, Biesbroek R, Araos M, Austin SE, and Lesnikowski A. (2015). Find PDF here. Nature Climate Change. 5: 967-969

IHACC project and Michelle Maillet featured in SciDevNet article on Indigenous voices at global climate change negotiations

2015 November 4

Last September, in the wake of the Sustainable Development Goals Summit and the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris, Michelle Maillet was interviewed in the context of her Master’s research and her role as project manager of the Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change project for a news piece examining current engagement with Indigenous voices at the international level.

To read the piece, please click on the link provided below.

Spotlight: Joint Action on Climate Change, Getting local voices to global talks on climate change, SciDevNet, October 14th 2015.

The article can also be found on the UNPO and AllAfrica websites.

Dr. James Ford and Mya Sherman featured in the Peruvian news papers La Republica and Correo

2015 November 4

Last October, Dr. James Ford and project lead Mya Serman were interviewed while in Lima for meetings and workshops related to the Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change project by local news papers La Republica and Correo.

To read the articles (published in Spanish), please follow the links provided below.

James Ford: “Los humanos somos más adaptables de lo que creemos”, La Republica, October 22nd 2015 edition.

Mya Sherman: “Producimos información no solo para los libros”, Correo, October 21st 2015 edition.

Notes from the field: Dylan Clark in Pangnirtung and Arviat, Nunavut

2015 November 4

Dylan near Arviat on a caribou hunt

CCARG member Dylan Clark has been in Nunavut this past month interviewing land users and building connections in Arviat and Pangnirtung. Dylan is researching the determinants of search and rescue and injuries among hunters and travelers across the Territory. read more…

Adaptation tracking for a post-2015 climate agreement

2015 October 28

Ford JD, Berrang-Ford L, Biesbroek R, Araos M, Austin SE, and Lesnikowski A. (2015). Find PDF here. Nature Climate Change. 5: 967-969

Evaluating climate change vulnerability assessments: a case study of research focusing on the built environment in northern Canada

2015 October 28

Ford JD, Champalle C, Thudge P, Riedlsperger R, Bell T, and Sparling E. (2015). Find PDF here. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. 20(8): 1267-1288.


Vulnerability assessments (VAs) have been widely used to understand the risks posed by climate change and identify opportunities for adaptation. Few studies, however, have evaluated VAs from the perspective of intended knowledge users or with reference to established best practices. In this paper, we identify and evaluate VAs focusing on the built environment in northern Canada. We document 16 completed VAs, which range from engineering-based studies of the vulnerability of specific infrastructural assets (e.g. building foundations, roads) to community-based assessments characterizing the vulnerability of the built environment in general in specific communities. We then evaluate projects based on the extent to which they incorporate best practices for vulnerability assessment, informed by a review of the scholarship and interviews with practitioners and knowledge users in the north (n = 21). While completed VAs have increased our understanding of the risks posed by climate change, none perform well across all evaluation criteria, and interviewees identified the need for improvement to VAs to inform decision making. Specifically, there is a need for greater emphasis on stakeholder engagement and effective communication of research findings, and interdisciplinary collaboration to capture the multiple drivers of vulnerability, cost impacts, and examine the performance of infrastructural assets under different climate scenarios.

Dr. James Ford and the IHACC project featured in Peruvian news paper Diario Uno

2015 October 21

Dr. James Ford and the IHACC project were featured in yesterday’s edition of the Peruvian news paper Diario Uno on p.13. To access the full issue, click here.

IHACC project Knowledge Dissemination event in Lima, Peru

2015 October 20

Last week, the IHACC Peru team hosted a two day seminar called Diagnóstico Climático 2015 at the UPCH Miraflores campus. The event sought to create a space for interaction, discussion and learning to describe and assess the relationship between climate change and health. The seminar specifically focused on climate change and climate variability and the health of indigenous and rural communities. The event included a variety of presentations and roundtable discussions with participation by public and private actors from local, regional, national, and international levels. The event was attended by >50 people including high level representatives from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment. IHACC team members Dr. Alejandro Llanos-Cuentas, Dr. César Cárcamo, Jahir Anicama Diaz, Dr. James Ford, Dr. Sherilee Harper, and Mya Sherman presented on both days of the event.

IHACC Peru Knowledge Sharing event 2015

Acute gastrointestinal illness in two Inuit communities: burden of illness in Rigolet and Iqaluit, Canada

2015 October 19

Harper SL, Edge VL, Ford J, Thomas MK, Pearl DL, Shirley J, IHACC, RICG and McEwen S. (2015). Find PDF here. Epidemiology and Infection. 143(14): 3048-3063


Food- and waterborne disease is thought to be high in some Canadian Indigenous communities; however, the burden of acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) is not well understood due to limited availability and quality of surveillance data. This study estimated the burden of community-level self-reported AGI in the Inuit communities of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, and Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada. Cross-sectional retrospective surveys captured information on AGI and potential environmental risk factors. Multivariable logistic regression models identified potential AGI risk factors. The annual incidence of AGI ranged from 2·9–3·9 cases/person per year in Rigolet and Iqaluit. In Rigolet, increased spending on obtaining country foods, a homeless person in the house, not visiting a cabin recently, exposure to puppies, and alternative sources of drinking water were associated with increased odds of AGI. In Iqaluit, eating country fish often, exposure to cats, employment status of the person responsible for food preparation, not washing the countertop with soap after preparing meat, a homeless person in the house, and overcrowding were associated with increased odds of AGI. The results highlight the need for systematic data collection to better understand and support previously anecdotal indications of high AGI incidence, as well as insights into unique AGI environmental risk factors in Indigenous populations.

Graham McDowell presents at the Mountains of our Future Earth conference

2015 October 13

On October 7th, CCARG and TRAC3 member Graham McDowell presented at the Mountains of our Future Earth conference in Perth, Scotland. This Future Earth affiliated event sought to advance understanding in three key Future Earth thematic areas: 1) Dynamics of the Planet (mountain systems focus), 2) Global Sustainable Development (UN Sustainable Development Goals focus), and 3) Transformations towards Sustainability. Graham presented in a special session on ‘Generating knowledge for climate change adaptation’ where he discussed the methodological approach and findings from his paper in Climatic Change (co-authored with Ellie Stephenson and Dr. James Ford). He argued that formal systematic review methods provide a cogent basis for knowledge synthesis and tracking in the context of information needs related to rapidly changing high mountain socio-ecological systems.

Malcolm Araos featured in Dhaka Tribune

2015 September 20

Malcolm Araos, a masters student working with CCARG, TRAC3, and ICCCAD wrote a short article featured in the September 19th edition of the Dhaka Tribune. To read the piece, entitled Adaptation to climate change: how well is Dhaka doing? click here.

Dylan Clark shares research with Montreal Westward Rotary Club

2015 September 20

Dylan at Montreal Westward Rotary

CCARG lab member Dylan Clark is starting the second year of his masters under the supervision of Dr. Ford. Dylan’s research focus is on unintentional injury and land safety in Nunavut. Unintentional injury disproportionately impacts Inuit populations, a contributing factor being safety on the land and resulting demands for search and rescue. Over the past ten years, search and rescue demands have been nearly doubled in Nunavut.

Funded in part by Rotary International, Dylan has been interviewing land users and search and rescue workers in Arviat, Whale Cove, and Iqaluit, asking what causes someone to be more at risk or safer on the land (to read the field report, click here). read more…