Media Centre

Inuit and Scientists Team Up on Climate Change Adaptation

NR 05-15 CCC ENG Climate Change Adaptation.doc

(March 22, 2005 – Cambridge Bay, Nunavut) Nunavut Tunngavik 1st Vice-President and Vice-President of Finance James Eetoolook said he was very satisfied with the outcome of the Inuit Perspectives on Climate Change Adaptation Challenges workshop held in Iqaluit last week.

The workshop followed up on the work initiated during the Elder’s Conference on Climate Change in Cambridge Bay in 2001. Inuit Elders and hunters and Southern scientists considered the climate change knowledge shared during that conference, and reviewed the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report, and came to a consensus concerning the impacts of climate change in Nunavut and the need to focus on adaptation issues.

The first-hand observations of Inuit Elders and hunters complement the research results and the global warming projections scientists are announcing. We have to consider all of this information as we think about the well-being of our next generations, and try to come up with an adaptation plan that allows Nunavut communities to prepare for what might lie ahead, said Eetoolook.

Because of the broad implications of climate change, it was difficult to pinpoint adaptation priorities during the three-day event. However, participants discussed a number of issues relating to adaptation, including the impact on wildlife and food sources, communication and public education, impact on community and industrial infrastructure, potential opportunities and benefits, and monitoring.

The testimony of Inuit hunters during the workshop made it clear that hunters are adapting to the changes in our climate every time they head out on the land, the sea ice or the water. We heard many hunters discuss how changing snow, ice and wind patterns affect travel between communities and make it more difficult for hunters to reach traditional hunting places. But, adaptation is a way of life for Inuit. This is how we have survived and it is how we will continue to survive as our environment and weather continue to change, explained Eetoolook.

Eetoolook pointed out that harvester support programs needed to be reviewed to meet hunters’ needs caused by drastic changes that occur in their harvesting environment. This point was clearly illustrated last week as Pangnirtung harvesters lost their turbot fishery and thousands of dollars worth of equipment when the sea ice in Cumberland Sound cracked several months ahead of schedule.

Today’s needs must be met by programs designed to mitigate drastic changes in our surroundings. We need to develop insurance or support programs that assist hunters who lose their food sources, their economic livelihood and their equipment when different weather patterns negatively impact their harvesting activities, said Eetoolook.

Workshop participants also discussed how the Government of Canada’s failure to implement the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement negatively affected the territory’s ability to assess the health of the environment. Canada has not developed the Nunavut General Monitoring Plan it promised to develop when the Land Claim was signed 12 years ago. Inuit need access to the information gained through monitoring if NTI is to accurately judge how climate change will affect Inuit harvesting rights, and properly consider the potential barriers to continued adaptation.

A final report detailing conference proceedings is being developed.

For further information:

Kerry McCluskey
Director of Communications
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
Tel: (867) 975-4914
Cell: (867) 975-1337
Toll-free: 1-888-646-0006