What we know, don’t know, and need to know about climate change vulnerability in the western Canadian Arctic.

2010 January 15

Ford, J.. and Pearce, T. (2010). Environmental Research Letters 5 (2010). Download PDF.

This letter systematically reviews and synthesizes scientific and gray literature publications (n = 420) to identify and characterize the nature of climate change vulnerability in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the western Canadian Arctic and identify gaps in understanding. The literature documents widespread evidence of climate change, with implications for human and biophysical systems. Adaptations are being employed to manage changing conditions and are indicative of a high adaptive capacity. However, barriers to adaptation are evident and are expected to constrain adaptive capacity to future climate change. Continued climate change is predicted for the region, with differential exposure sensitivity for communities, groups and sectors: a function of social–economic–biophysical characteristics and projected future climatic conditions. Existing climate risks are expected to increase in magnitude and frequency, although the interaction between projected changes and socio-economic–demographic trends has not been assessed. The capacity for adapting to future climate change has also not been studied. The review identifies the importance of targeted vulnerability research that works closely with community members and other stakeholders to address research needs. Importantly, the fully categorized list of reviewed references accompanying this letter will be a valuable resource for those working or planning to work in the region, capturing climate change research published since 1990. At a broader level, the systematic review methodology offers a promising tool for climate/environmental change studies in general where there is a large and emerging body of research but limited understanding of research gaps and needs.

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