Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 83–100 | Cite as

Vulnerability of Inuit food systems to food insecurity as a consequence of climate change: a case study from Igloolik, Nunavut

  • James D. FordEmail author
Original Article


This paper develops a conceptual model to examine the vulnerability of Inuit food systems to food insecurity as a consequence of climate change. The model illustrates that food system vulnerability is determined by the exposure and sensitivity of the food system to climate-related risks and its adaptive capacity to deal with those risks. The model is empirically applied using a case study from Igloolik, Nunavut. Specifically, the paper focuses on how extreme climate-related conditions in 2006 interacted with the food system to affect food security, using 2006 as a lens to identify and characterize some of the processes and conditions shaping vulnerability, and establishing a baseline for identifying and characterizing processes that are likely to shape future vulnerability. There is a high level of adaptive capacity among Igloolik Inuit, with food sharing mechanisms, hunting flexibility, and store-food access moderating the impact of climatic-risks on food security. However, high fuel and commodity prices, the increasing economic burden of adapting to back-to-back years with unfavorable climatic conditions, underlying community vulnerabilities, and the nature to the climate extremes in 2006, overwhelmed the adaptive capacity of many community members. Those dependent on traditional foods and having limited access to financial resources were particularly vulnerable.


Food security Climate change Inuit Canada Vulnerability science Adaptive capacity Traditional foods 



The project was supported by the International Polar Year CAVIAR project, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, ArcticNet, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Nassivik Centre, and a Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Program grant from Natural Resources Canada. The insights and generous hospitality provided by residents of Igloolik are gratefully acknowledged, particularly the contributions of John MacDonald, Leah Otak, Kevin Qrunnut and Celina Irngaut. The contributions of Barry Smit of the University of Guelph, Jamal Shirley of the Nunavut Research Institute, Scott Nickels of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, George Wenzel, Wayne Pollard and Lea Berrang Ford at McGill University, William Gough at the University of Toronto, and Gita Laidler of Carlton University are also acknowledged. The research was carried out under Nunavut Research license ##0203204N-M. Anonymous reviewers provided detailed and constructive suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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