A new report says roads, buildings and infrastructure in places such as Iqaluit are not equipped for potential long-term changes in climate. ((CBC))

Canada's North is at risk and unprepared to deal effectively with the threat climate change poses to the region's roads, buildings, waste sites and other other critical infrastructure, according to a federal advisory body.

In a report released Thursday, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy says the North requires a comprehensive effort to ensure "communities become more ready to adapt to expected climate changes leading to degrading permafrost, melting ice roads, storm surges and coastal erosion."

David McLaughlin, the president and CEO of the roundtable, said changes in temperatures in the region could put buildings at risk if they are built on permafrost.

"They will start to degrade," he told CBC News. "The foundations will become unstable you'll get cracks in them. Hospitals and schools all will start to crumble."

The group's 16 recommendations include:

  • Updating construction and engineering codes and standards. 
  • Providing better weather and permafrost information.
  • Examining changes to the insurance system.
  • Putting more federal funding into new infrastructure built with the changing climate in mind.

The report also notes winter roads melting earlier in the spring could force communities to airlift supplies, while increased snowfall and changing ice conditions can add stress to buildings as well as energy and communications infrastructure.

The recommendations come as world leaders get ready to meet in Copenhagen beginning Dec. 7 to discuss how best to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which have been linked to rising temperatures, particularly in the Arctic, where permafrost degradation and melting sea ice are becoming a concern.

"Climate change is moving fastest in Arctic areas, requiring Canada to be a world leader in adaptation practices — more than we had even contemplated," round table chair Bob Page said in a statement.

"We believe our report fills an important niche for the federal government in implementing its northern strategy."