CLIMATE CHANGE PRIMERS
The Nunamiutuqaq program seeks to educate northerners about their changing world. This 101 section features plain language explanations and infographics to help you better understand what climate change involves, why it is caused, and some of the renewable technologies that we can use to help offset our impact on the world.
We have partnered with Brightspot Climate to create this series of primers based on questions that we have been frequently asked by northerners during our research.
Would you like advice on what renewable energy sources to add to your cabin?
Ever wondered if solar panels are usable during an Arctic winter?
Do you have questions about ways to reduce your environmental footprint?
We are collaborating with Brightspot Climate to make our project research more accessible to northern communities. Ask Brightspot is a new feature designed to provide northerners with the information they need to become more aware of climate change and solutions in their part of the world. Use this request form to connect directly to energy experts Lydia Brant and Keith Knutsen for help with any questions you might have about renewable energy, climate change, or available northern energy programs.
Brightspot is an independent climate change and energy consultancy that prioritizes education, connection to the land, zeal for the environment, and hope for the future.
All questions and answers from this section will be posted in our archives with personal names and contact information removed so that we can all learn from the answers.
Frequently asked questions
How does climate change impact large Arctic animals, such as seals and polar bears?
Climate change is impacting air and water temperature, which impacts many things for large animals in the Arctic. One of the many ways these animals are impacted is through the formation and break up of ice on the sea. As temperatures rise, the sea ice breaks up earlier in the spring and forms later in the fall. These changes impact animals like polar bears, seals and walruses who use the sea ice for resting, hunting and raising their young. Similarly, climate change may begin to impact grass and plant growth on land, affecting animals who rely on that for food, such as caribou. Overall, there are many effects climate change has on Arctic animals and the only way to protect these great species is to stop and reverse climate change. Learn more about the impacts of climate change in the “Arctic Climate Change Primer”.
I have heard about something called carbon capture. Can this happen in Nunavut and can it help us reduce the greenhouse effect?
Absolutely! If you’ve read the “Carbon Cycle” primer you already know the Arctic Ocean is actually a natural carbon sink! As carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere, the concentration becomes higher and more CO2 is dissolved in the surface water of the ocean. This water then sinks as it is cooled down and can move into the sea bed where absorbed CO2 can stay locked in for hundreds of years. While this is a neat ability, it comes at a price. The more CO2 the oceans absorb from the atmosphere, the ocean becomes more acidic which can impact marine habitat and animals. In addition to the ocean, trees and vegetation are also natural carbon sinks that pull CO2 out of the air to grow. Opportunities also exist for human-created carbon capture projects in the Arctic. Other carbon capture projects in Canada include capturing carbon and storing it in large underground caverns, however the feasibility of this in an Arctic environment may be out of the question, at least for now. Small scale carbon capture projects also exist, such as piping in carbon from fossil fuel plants into greenhouses or other storage caverns. This eliminates releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
How do I know if my community or home is built on permafrost and what impact could climate change have on it?
There are a few ways to get an idea of whether your community or house is built on permafrost, you can look for vegetation around your home, if there are willows, Labrador tea or spongy ground, you are likely on permafrost. Soil type is another indicator of permafrost, if there is grey-ish fine clay that may be indicator you are on permafrost, whereas gravel, sand and coarse soils allow water to drain through and are less likely to contain permafrost. Melting permafrost may or may not lead to structural issues but it’s best to ensure that the ground underneath your home or community structure is not at risk. Water under the house can promote permafrost thaw, so houses should be designed to move water away from the foundation. Snow is also a natural insulator meaning that it can actually trap heat from your home, increasing the ground temperature. To maintain a cold ground temperature, shovel snow away from your home and foundation. House shifting may be one impact of permafrost thaw but it does not always mean that the permafrost is melting. If you notice your house shifting or if you have cracks in the drywall, it’ best to talk to a building expert in your community to assess the issue. Learn more about climate change in the Arctic and its impact in the “Arctic Climate Change Primer”.
Will wind turbines fall over or become damaged in high winds?
If you’ve read the “Wind Power 101” primer, you know that wind turbines generate more power in high wind environments than low wind environments. This is true, but only to a certain point. Wind turbines can only be designed to sustain a certain wind speed, and after that point damage to the blades may occur. To mitigate this damage, the wind turbine manufacturers build in a brake system, that stops the wind blades from spinning in wind speeds over 90km/hr. This prevents damage from occurring to the wind turbine. While there have been cases in which wind turbines have been damaged in storms, these cases are extremely rare, especially with new wind turbine technology.