Climate change in the Arctic: Current and future vulnerability in two Inuit communities in Canada

2008 March 1

Ford, J., Smit, B., Wandel. J., Allurut, M., Shappa, K., Ittusujurat, H., and Qrunnut, K. 2008. The Geographical Journal, 174(1) 45-62. Find PDF.

Climate change is already occurring in the Arctic and the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment recently concluded that future climate change could be devastating for Inuit. This paper characterises vulnerability to climate change in two Inuit communities in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, focusing on the resource harvesting sector. In both communities, Inuit have demonstrated significant adaptability in the face of current changes in climatic conditions. This adaptability is facilitated by traditional Inuit knowledge, strong social networks, flexibility in resource use, and institutional support. Changing Inuit livelihoods, however, have undermined certain aspects of adaptive capacity and have resulted in emerging vulnerabilities. Global and regional climate projections indicate that climatic conditions which currently pose risks are expected to be negatively affected by future climate change. These projections are not without precedent and analysis of current vulnerability and identification of adaptation constraints by Inuit in the two communities indicate the continued importance of traditional coping mechanisms. The ability to draw on these coping mechanisms in light of future climate change, however, will be unequal and the research indicates that young Inuit and those without access to economic resources, in particular, are vulnerable.

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