Changing access to ice, land and water in Arctic communities

2019 March 19

Ford, J.D., Clark, D., Pearce, T., Berrang-Ford, L., Copland, L., Dawson, J., New, M. and Harper, S.L. (2019). Changing access to ice, land and water in Arctic communitiesNature Climate Change, article online.


Arctic climate change has the potential to affect access to semi-permanent trails on land, water and sea ice, which are the main forms of transport for communities in many circumpolar regions. Focusing on Inuit Nunangat (the Inuit homeland in northern Canada), trail access models were developed drawing upon a participatory process that connects Indigenous knowledge and science. We identified general thresholds for weather and sea ice variables that define boundaries that determine trail access, then applied these thresholds to instrumental data on weather and sea ice conditions to model daily trail accessibility from 1985 to 2016 for 16 communities. We find that overall trail access has been minimally affected by >2 °C warming in the past three decades, increasing by 1.38–1.96 days, differing by trail type. Across models, the knowledge, equipment and risk tolerance of trail users were substantially more influential in determining trail access than changing climatic conditions.

Media Coverage on CBC

2019 June 18

James was recently interviewed for the CBC News article: In our backyard: What climate change in Canada looks likeThe article discusses the role that a climate is playing in the prevalence of wildfires, flooding, heatwaves and changes to the Arctic environment.  James, on the importance of emergency management and traditional knowledge to risk reduction in the Arctic:


More investments, however, need to be made in things like search and rescue and emergency management, said James Ford, Priestley Chair in Climate Adaptation at the University of Leeds, who does research in Canada’s North. Ford also believes that making sure traditional Indigenous knowledge — such as survival skills and how to identify dangerous conditions — gets passed on to younger generations.

“This knowledge is extremely important for adapting to climate change.”




An integrative climate change vulnerability index for Arctic aviation and marine transportation

2019 June 18

Debortoli, N.S., Clark, D.G., Ford, J.D., Sayles, J.S. and Diaconescu, E.P. (2019). An integrative climate change vulnerability index for Arctic aviation and marine transportationNature Communications10, article number: 2596.


Climate change vulnerability research methods are often divergent, drawing from siloed biophysical risk approaches or social-contextual frameworks, lacking methods for integrative approaches. This substantial gap has been noted by scientists, policymakers and communities, inhibiting decision-makers’ capacity to implement adaptation policies responsive to both physical risks and social sensitivities. Aiming to contribute to the growing literature on integrated vulnerability approaches, we conceptualize and translate new integrative theoretical insights of vulnerability research to a scalable quantitative method. Piloted through a climate change vulnerability index for aviation and marine sectors in the Canadian Arctic, this study demonstrates an avenue of applying vulnerability concepts to assess both biophysical and social components analyzing future changes with linked RCP climate projections. The iterative process we outline is transferable and adaptable across the circumpolar north, as well as other global regions and shows that transportation vulnerability varies across Inuit regions depending on modeled hazards and transportation infrastructures.

Tracking global climate adaptation among governments

2019 May 28

Berrang-Ford, L., Biesbroek, R., Ford, J.D., Lesnikowski, A., Tanabe, A., Wang, F.M., Chen, C., Hsu, A., Hellmann, J.J., Pringle, P., Grecequet, M., Amado, J.-C., Huq, S., Lwasa, S. and Heymann, J. (2019). Tracking global climate adaptation among governments. Nature Climate Change9, pp. 440-449.


The Paris Agreement and Katowice Climate Package articulate a clear mandate for all parties to undertake and document adaptation progress. Yet persistent challenges have prevented substantive developments in tracking adaptation and the assessment of adaptation actions and their outcomes. Here, we provide an overview of the challenges of adaptation tracking and propose a comprehensive conceptual framework for assessing adaptation progress by governments that is scalable over time and across contexts. The framework addresses the core components of adaptation assessment (vulnerability, goals and targets, adaptation efforts, and adaptation results) and characterizes subcomponents focused on adaptation effort (leadership, organizations and policy). In particular, we highlight how critical insights can be uncovered by systematically tracking policy efforts over time, and discusses novel approaches to data collection.

Press Coverage of Nutrition North Canada Commentary

2019 May 21

A commentary, published by Ford et al., discussing the findings of recent article by St. Germain et al. – that food insecurity in Nunavut has gotten worse since the introduction of the Nutrition North Canada program in 2011 – has been featured by a number of news outlets this week.


CBC News:


Nunatsiaq News:


Medical Xpress:



Food insecurity in Nunavut: Are we going from bad to worse?

2019 May 21

Ford, J.D., Clark, D.G. and Naylor, A.W. (2019). Food insecurity in Nunavut: Are we going from bad to worse? Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ)191(20), pp. E550-E551.


Access to adequate food is a major challenge for communities across the Inuit Nunangat. In Nunavut, food insecurity has been identified to be at crisis level, with 46.8% of households categorized as food insecure in the most recent Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) in 2014. Such a high rate of food insecurity documented in a high­-income nation, with all its related health and societal implications, is concerning. As such, food security has become a political and public priority in Nunavut, and in 2011 the federal government launched the Nutrition North Canada program to improve the affordability and accessibility of perishable, nutritious store foods. Nutrition North Canada has been controversial since its inception, and now a linked research paper by Fafard St ­Germain and colleagues provides evidence that rates of food insecurity in the territory have actually increased by 13.2 percentage points since the program’s launch.

The authors of the linked study use a novel design to examine CCHS data from before (2007–2010) and after (2014–2016) the implementation of Nutrition North Canada. Finding that reported food insecurity has increased in remote communities in Nunavut, they question the effectiveness of Nutrition North Canada. How­ ever, this policy forms part of a whole suite of actions by govern­ ment, civil society and communities targeted at strengthening food systems. The degree of contribution of Nutrition North Canada to increased food insecurity needs further investigation.