Our lives are already impacted by the uncertainties of a rapidly accelerating global climate crisis. New dangers threaten daily activities in Inuit Nunangat, such as hunting and fishing, and there is a ripple effect on our livelihoods, local economies and the learning and development of our youth. Our National Inuit Climate Change Strategy, released in early June in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, advocates for the implementation of local, regional, national, and international climate policies that we know can measurably improve our quality of life and safeguard our unique cultural and social needs.
The Strategy, developed collaboratively with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Makivik Corporation, and the Nunatsiavut Government, outlines ways current and future partners can work with Inuit on climate change. It outlines our vision for working collaboratively with outside partners to strengthen the resilience and sustainability of our communities in the face of a changing climate. The actions we are pursuing are grounded in the advancement of our rights and self-determination.
We have now lost almost 40 percent of our sea ice cover, and shipping activity in the Northwest Passage has shown increasing trends in the last decade. It is projected that in 30 years most of our marine areas will be free of ice altogether for at least one month every summer, with multi-year ice from the High Arctic drifting into ice free areas and presenting significant marine navigation hazards. A recent assessment by the Arctic Council warns that if we continue our current emissions path, we will lose the chance to stabilize Arctic sea ice loss and permafrost thaw within a decade.
Hunters are particularly vulnerable as wildlife patterns become more difficult to predict and ice conditions deteriorate. Inuit children born today are already occupying a world their great-grandparents wouldn’t recognize. Within the next 10 years, even if global greenhouse gas emissions were reduced immediately, the annual mean temperature in Inuit Nunangat is projected to rise to nearly 2°C.
Coordinated action to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change is essential. We are determined to shape climate policies so that they reflect Inuit priorities rather than adding to the socio-economic inequities we already face.
Already, in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR), traditional underground freezer storage is no longer safe due to warming temperatures. Fortunately, Inuvialuit have found new ways to ensure traditional food is available to community members. The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is investing in industrial community freezers, promoting renewable energy use and creating potential training opportunities for solar energy installation and maintenance.
In Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), youth are working together with leaders, Elders and others to study gastrointestinal illnesses and pathogens that are becoming more frequent as the climate warms. Pairing science with Inuit knowledge and principles, youth are advancing climate science in their community and region.
These are just some examples of how Inuit are taking action on climate change. But we can’t do it alone. It will take unprecedented partnerships and hard work to reduce the harm being done to our homeland, and the planet. The National Inuit Climate Change Strategy can guide us all in this work. Our children and grandchildren are depending on us. We can’t let them down.
President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami