Time for action to deal with climate change in Nunavik and Nunatsiavut: report
Warming climate is affecting human health, safety and security, says ArcticNet
Survival in the warming world of Nunavik and Nunatsiavut means doing things in a different way and protecting the regions’ residents and resources.
This means taking actions to improve quality of life, safeguard the environment and facilitate sustainable development, says a new report by researchers with the ArcticNet network with input from the two regions, which was released Nov. 29 in Kuujjuaq.
These actions could include limiting or banning the sports hunt for caribou in northern Quebec and Labrador if it affects the health of the caribou herds or Inuit subsistence harvesting, the report’s authors suggest.
Or it could mean making sure there’s access to healthy, affordable store-bought foods and to country food, by ways such as increasing the availability of country foods through commercial sale and distribution.
These among the 24 policy recommendations contained in Nunavik and Nunatsiavut: From Science to Policy. An Integrated Regional Impact Study of Climate Change and Modernization, or IRIS for short.
The report highlights the importance of research and the importance of research that also helps communities who are at the centre of impacts from climate change, said John Cheechoo, director of environment and wildlife at Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, who attended the launch in Kuujjuaq.
Scientific research cited in the 300-page report shows Nunavik and Nunatsiavut are heating up: for example, snow and ice cover is currently decreasing at a rate of about one day per year, while ground temperatures have already warmed by over 2 C, with significant permafrost melt.
Among the report’s other key scientific findings, which it says “raise major issues for human health, safety and security, vulnerability of infrastructures and for the impacts of resource exploitation:”
• Inuit in Nunavik and Nunatsiavut have a life expectancy 10 years shorter than most Canadians;
• berry production is predicted to decline under increased shrub cover;
• maintaining good quality drinking water in communities is a challenge;
• thawing of permafrost modifies the natural environment and can threaten infrastructure;
• sea ice cover is diminishing in its extent and duration; and,
• fiord ecosystems are changing.
Among the report’s 24 recommendations: policies must be developed and adopted to address the “significant health inequality and lower life expectancy.”
And a healthy lifestyle needs must be encouraged —“ the negative impacts of drugs and alcohol cannot be ignored.” it says.
That goes along with more promotion of health and nutrition education in communities.
As well, the report says the sustainability of the Arctic char harvest must continue to be assessed, and habitat enhancement and restocking for Arctic char should be considered.
There also needs to be more monitoring of water sources so people continue to have access to safe, clean drinking water.
Improved planning and “appropriate engineering practices” should be applied to take into account local environmental conditions for construction projects — otherwise there may be more incidents like the 1998 slippage of land in a newly-built subdivision in Salluit.
That eventually caused the relocation of 20 houses, which is discussed at length in the full report, with other climate change studies that have since taken place in the Hudson Strait community.
“This study is a great tool to express our needs and we should get together with our northern neighbours of Nunatsiavut to work as a team when the project is launched in Quebec City to make sure that it gets the attention it deserves,” said Maggie Emudluk, chairperson of the Kativik Regional Government.
Emudluk said the report will also help in the development of Nunavik’s Parnasimautik development plan.
You can download the IRIS report summary document (in four languages) and the full report, in English, here.