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TitlePerspectives on Canada's north coast region
LicencePlease note the adoption of the Open Government Licence - Canada supersedes any previous licences.
AuthorFord, J D; Bell, T; Couture, N JORCID logo; Atkinson, D E; Champalle, C; Cunsolo Willox, A; Dawson, J; Falardeau-Côté, M; Flynn, M; Harper, S; James, T SORCID logo; Labbé, J; Lanz, T; Mauro, I; Myers, E; Ogden, N; Parewick, K; Pearce, T; Radosavljevic, B; Riedlsperger, R; Sayles, J; Tremblay, M
SourceCanada's marine coasts in a changing climate; by Lemmen, D S (ed.); Warren, F J (ed.); James, T SORCID logo (ed.); Mercer Clarke, C S L (ed.); 2016 p. 153-206 Open Access logo Open Access
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20150341
PublisherGovernment of Canada (Ottawa)
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
RelatedThis publication is contained in Canada's marine coasts in a changing climate
RelatedThis publication is a translation of Perspectives relatives à la région de la côte Nord du Canada
File formatpdf
ProvinceNewfoundland and Labrador; Quebec; Ontario; Nunavut; Northwest Territories; Yukon
NTS13; 14; 16; 24; 25; 26; 27; 32M; 33; 34; 35; 36; 37; 38; 39; 42P; 43; 44D; 45; 46; 47; 48; 49; 54; 55; 56; 57; 58; 59; 66; 67; 68; 69; 76; 77; 78; 79; 86; 87; 88; 89; 97; 98; 99A; 107; 117; 120; 340; 560
AreaArctic Archipelago; Hudson Bay; James Bay
Lat/Long WENS-142.0000 -52.0000 84.0000 50.5000
Subjectsenvironmental geology; surficial geology/geomorphology; Economics and Industry; Nature and Environment; coastal studies; coastal environment; coastal management; ecosystems; sea level fluctuations; sea ice; adaptation; storms; permafrost; Quaternary
ProgramClimate Change Impacts and Adaptation
ProgramClimate Change Impacts and Adaptation Canada in a Changing Climate
Released2016 01 01; 2022 12 29
AbstractKey Findings
The environment and socio-economic characteristics of the northern coast are unique. Inhabited primarily by Indigenous populations living in small remote communities, Canada's northern coastline is vast, representing more than 70% of all Canadian coasts. The presence of sea ice is a defining feature of this coast, affecting transportation access, shaping geomorphological processes and providing a platform for culturally valued and economically important harvesting activities. Social, economic and demographic characteristics of northern coastal communities differ considerably from the Canadian average, with resource development and public administration being mainstays of northern economies.
The northern coast is a hotspot for global climate change. The region has experienced some of the most rapid climate change anywhere on the globe, and projected future climate changes for the northern coastline will continue to be significant. Impacts on the physical environment include declining sea-ice concentration, earlier ice break-up and later freeze-up, a lengthening of the ice-free open-water season, permafrost warming and thaw, coastal erosion, sea-level rise and changing weather patterns, including wind and waves.
Northern coastal communities, ecosystems and economic activities are being affected by climate change impacts. Many communities have a high sensitivity to climate change impacts, as they are situated on low-lying coasts and have infrastructure built on permafrost, economies strongly linked to natural resources and dependence on land-based harvesting activities. Negative impacts of climate change on a variety of sectors have been widely documented across the northern coast. New opportunities associated with a longer ice-free shipping season are also recognized, but increased marine traffic also brings risks.
Climate change will exacerbate existing vulnerabilities. Vulnerability differs significantly by region and community and, within communities, as a function of geographic location, nature of climate change impacts and human factors. Capacity to manage climate change is high in some sectors, such as subsistence harvesting and health, but is being undermined by long-term societal changes. In other sectors, such as infrastructure, limitations in climate risk-management capacity (e.g., institutional, financial, regulatory) result in continuing high vulnerabilities.
Northern coastal communities and industries are adapting. Adaptation actions are already taking place in the North, with examples of adaptation planning documented across all levels of government. The effectiveness and sufficiency of the existing responses have not been evaluated, although barriers to adaptation, including limited resources, institutional capacity and a lack of 'usable' research, have been identified. Publicly available information on how the private sector is approaching adaptation is limited.
Opportunities for additional adaptation are diverse. Mainstreaming adaptation into ongoing policy initiatives and priorities to address underlying socio-cultural determinants of vulnerability can help address the risks posed by climate change to harvesting activities, culture and health. Adaptation actions targeted at specific climatic risks are also required, particularly to manage the impacts of climate change on community and industrial infrastructure.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
This assessment focuses on climate change impacts and adaptation in Canada's northern marine coastal regions. Considering both the natural and built environments, the report aims to provide answers to questions such as 'how is the climate changing in northern coastal regions?', 'how are these changes affecting the physical coastline, communities, ecosystems and economic sectors?', and 'how are Canadians adapting to these changes to reduce risks or take advantage of potential opportunities?'.

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