3 community projects get off the ground in Nunavut with new climate change adaptation funding

Nunavut will get more money to prepare for climate change as part of the federal government's 2017 budget, starting this year.

Winter tourism planning, permafrost tracking and youth advisory council going ahead with $1.7M

Drilling into the permafrost started this summer in Kugluk territorial park, on the Coppermine River southwest of Kugluktuk. (Joanna MacDonald/Climate Change Secretariat)

Nunavut will get more money to prepare for climate change as part of the federal government's 2017 budget, starting this year.

The money is part of Canada's Climate Change Preparedness in the North program, which is managed by the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.

The government of Nunavut started planning the projects with funding from the 2016 federal budget and with this additional money, the projects will get underway this year.

The chosen projects will get a combined total of $1.7 million over four years. The government of Nunavut received $500,000 this year and will receive less and less each year as the projects find additional funding.

3 projects funded

Three projects were chosen, all of which were conceived of at the community level.

One supports outfitters in Arctic Bay in planning winter tourist activities in increasingly precarious sea ice conditions. 

"Sea ice decline is one of the most significant changes that Nunavut's experiencing because of climate change, tourism is affected by that," said climate change adaptation specialist Joanna MacDonald.

Joanna MacDonald is a climate change adaptation specialist with the government of Nunavut's Climate Change Secretariat. (David Gunn/CBC)

She says the project will look at what happens when sea ice forms later in the season, is less stable or changes its breakup patterns.

"There's so many different impacts of sea ice decline, on tourism, but then you can talk about shipping, land safety and emergency preparedness is a piece of that, mental health and well-being and the link to getting out on the land and getting out on the ice."

MacDonald says the project in Kugluk Territorial Park, on the Coppermine River southwest of Kugluktuk, had already been identified at the community level, but it needed this funding to go ahead.

Because of how the permafrost is thawing in the park, the commonly used ATV trail has become bumpy and unstable, so the park's community planning committee wants to reroute it.

The project will also involve drilling boreholes to better map how the permafrost is thawing.

The ATV trail in Kugluk territorial park has become uneven and unstable as the permafrost melts. (Stéphanie Coulombe/Climate Change Secretariat)

Related to this, in March, the Climate Change Secretariat is planning a two-day workshop on permafrost hazard mapping, which will bring together the map makers with those who use the maps.

So researchers will get together with building developers and the housing authorities to hear how they use the maps to plan infrastructure developments, including what map features are most useful.

Youth advisory council

The final project is getting a Nunavut-wide youth advisory council together to help direct the Nunavut's Climate Change Secretariat and have the youth bring back what they learn to their communities.

MacDonald says each community has its own challenges related to climate change — in Grise Fiord, its coastal erosion, in Pond Inlet, it might be water monitoring.

The youth council will weigh in on community-specific problems and look at how Nunavut as a whole can adapt.

"What does it mean if you have to change your hunting routes? Are people able to do that? Do they have what they need to be able to do that — that's all encapsulated in the climate change adaptation," MacDonald says.