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Taking action now to safeguard Canada’s Arctic


 This story is taken from the NCE anniversary report "Building on 25 Years of R&D Excellence."

Students on the CCGS Amundsen

The challenge

Climate change is rapidly transforming the Arctic and drawing increasing attention to the region’s global and geopolitical importance. Local communities, policymakers, regulators and industry need a solid foundation of science and traditional knowledge to address these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities.

The opportunity for Canada and Inuit communities

Timely and credible data is helping Inuit communities develop sustainability plans. Canada needs solid research to protect human health and the environment, promote economic and social development, improve Northern governance, and strengthen its sovereignty. Research results will also inform Quebec’s $80-billion, 25-year “The North for All” plan and the 25-year Plan Nunavik, and support the overarching theme for Canada’s chairmanship of the eight-country Arctic Council: development for the people of the North, with a focus on responsible Arctic resource development, safe Arctic shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities.

What ArcticNet is doing right

ArcticNet plays a unique role in connecting science and policy. It collaborates with multiple stakeholders to conduct complex assessments of the regional impacts of climate change in the Canadian Arctic, and determine how to minimize negative impacts and maximize benefits.

  • Strong networks and partnerships: Never before has Canada had such a collaborative and inclusive approach to Arctic research. ArcticNet brings together over 145 researchers from the health, social and natural sciences from 32 Canadian universities, and over 150 partner organizations, including federal, provincial and territorial agencies and departments, and Inuit organizations.
  • Good governance and management: ArcticNet’s board members represent the Inuit organizations, government agencies and industries that put the network’s research into practice. These end users work alongside academic researchers to manage the research program and ensure ongoing assessment of all projects.
  • Sharing funding, shared benefits: All stakeholders have contributed to ArcticNet’s success. It leverages more than $2 in public and private sector funding for every $1 from the NCE. Industry, alone, has contributed more than $25 million. The Government of Canada and ArcticNet also share the costs of the network’s primary research platform, the CCGS Amundsen icebreaker.
  • Public access to data: ArcticNet requires that its data be made available to the public within three years of a project ending. A low-bandwidth search tool has been developed to ensure data is accessible to Northern partners whose internet speed is limited.
  • Engaging local communities: The Inuit Advisory Committee provides guidance and recommendations related to strategic planning, research needs/gaps, input of traditional knowledge, community involvement, participation, training and education. ArcticNet also collaborates closely with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada), and all four regional Inuit land claim organizations in developing and conducting its research programs.
  • Putting research into practice: ArcticNet researchers and students publish extensively, steadily adding to our knowledge of Arctic processes. Successful knowledge mobilization also requires making science relevant and accessible to non-scientific audiences. ArcticNet bridges this gap by putting all its research findings into roadmaps – called Integrated Regional Impact Studies – which provide region-specific information, including practical policy recommendations.
  • Training the next generation: ArcticNet’s more than 1,000 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates, technicians and other specialists work with local partners who will put this research into practice. ArcticNet also provides opportunities for high school students to study aboard the CCGS Amundsen and in Arctic coastal communities, inspiring students to consider careers in science, research and the environment.

Show me the results

  • Limiting the sports hunt for caribou and increasing the commercial sale of traditional and healthy country foods such as fish and wild berries could improve the health and sustainability of people living in Nunavik and Nunatsiavut. Those are among 23 policy recommendations included in ArcticNet’s first Integrated Regional Impact Study, which addresses four priority issues: human health; safety and security; transportation and infrastructures; and socio-economic development and resource exploitation.
  • There are few comprehensive studies on the impacts of climate change on regional ecosystems, societies and human populations. That’s why the Arctic Council is using ArcticNet’s IRIS (Integrated Regional Impact Studies) model to shape its Adaptation Action for a Changing Arctic assessment, to be completed in 2017. It will create the first integrated picture of ongoing changes in the coastal Arctic.
  • Imperial Oil has incorporated environmental data from ArcticNet’s Beaufort Sea study into its exploration drilling planning and program design to ensure that proposed operations are safe and environmentally responsible. These multi-stakeholder research collaborations guarantee that decisions about exploration drilling, environmental assessments and regulations are based on the best scientific information available.