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Vulnerability of Community Infrastructure to Climate Change in Nunavut: A Case Study From Arctic Bay

Abstract

This paper uses a vulnerability approach to characterize infrastructural vulnerability to climate change, drawing upon a case study from the Inuit community of Arctic Bay. Interviews with community members and geomorphological observations indicate a number of exposure-sensitivities which currently affect the community and which have the potential to become more problematic with future climate change. These include landscape hazards such as coastal erosion, permafrost thaw, slope instability, and flooding, which have damaged built infrastructure and threaten to constrain future community development, and climatic risks including sea ice thickness and high winds which are affecting the usability and safety of semi-permanent trail networks. A number of adaptations are utilized to manage infrastructure risks including the construction of buildings on piles, the use of non-pipe based water and sewage distribution, the construction of shoreline protection, and the construction of drainage diversion and control channels. Risks of using trail networks are moderated by traditional knowledge of trail conditions. Climate change will increase exposure-sensitivity of trail networks and hard infrastructure, and population growth is likely to increase sensitivity to climatic risks: areas for new housing development, for example, may be constrained by ice-rich permafrost, slope instability and increased exposure to landscape hazards. A number of barriers to adaptation are likely to constrain future adaptability including financial constraints on strengthening and protecting infrastructure, lack of knowledge of climate change projections and likely impacts on the community, and an erosion of traditional knowledge through which the risks of using trail networks are managed.

Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Infrastructure
  • Inuit
  • Vulnerability
  • Mixed methods

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Acknowledgements

The insights and generous hospitality provided by residents of Arctic Bay are gratefully acknowledged, particularly the contributions of Mishak Allurut and Kik Shappa. Field assistance was provided by Zack Bartlett. Thanks also to Barry Smit and Johanna Wandel for fieldwork and academic support. The research was supported by CAVIAR, ArcticNet, the Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments, a Seed Grant from the Integrated Management Node of the Ocean Management Research Network, the Northern Science Training Program, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The research was undertaken under Nunavut Research Institute License #0203204 N-M and 0204106 N-M.

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Ford, J.D., Bell, T., St-Hilaire-Gravel, D. (2010). Vulnerability of Community Infrastructure to Climate Change in Nunavut: A Case Study From Arctic Bay. In: Hovelsrud, G., Smit, B. (eds) Community Adaptation and Vulnerability in Arctic Regions. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-9174-1_5

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