College pitches global warming research centre

The Yukon is warming three times faster than most other regions on the planet. This means Northerners will be the first to have to adapt.

The Yukon is warming three times faster than most other regions on the planet.

This means Northerners will be the first to have to adapt.

On Tuesday, climate change experts converged at Yukon College to discuss the benefits of creating a Yukon Research Centre of Excellence.

It would focus on adaptation to climate change.

“I was excited by it,” said John Streiker, who attended the symposium and has been pushing for the research centre for four years.

“Ever since I was running the Northern Climate ExChange, we recognized the need for having more research based up here in the North.”

The centre will pursue solutions relevant to northern communities.

Most climate change research has concentrated on its causes and effects and how to mitigate them.

“We will have to have both,” said Streiker.

“It’s far too late to think that we can mitigate and not have to adapt,” he said.

“But obviously, if all you do is adapt, then you’ll have to do that forever because adaptation just deals with the symptoms.”

There are still many challenges, not the least of which is funding.

The centre’s focus would be research throughout the entire North, said Community Services Minister Glenn Hart when asked about funding.

Hart attended for Environment Minister Dennis Fentie, who is in Ottawa to discuss First Nation’s treaties issues.

“It’s important to remember that we need other jurisdictions to operate as partners in the North,” said Hart.

“Once we know where we’re going and what the vision is going to be, then it’ll be up to them to come forward.”

Northern climate change research is nothing new.

In the International Polar Year, a large scientific program focused on the Arctic and Antarctic (from March 2007 to March 2009), 90 per cent of the projects concern climate change.

The Yukon Research Centre of Excellence would focus that research and provide opportunities for synergy, said Streiker.

“We would like to create an environment here for research to happen in the North and an exchange of ideas that will stay here more,” he said.

“Right now there’s not as much opportunity to get all the co-benefits that come out of that type of research.”

On average, the Circumpolar North is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe, according to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment released in 2004.

This is because snow and ice tend to reflect sunlight.

As the snow and Arctic ice melt away, you end up with bare forests and oceans, which tend to absorb the heat faster.

And if the Circumpolar North is warming twice as fast, the Yukon is probably warming three times as fast, said Streiker.

“Typically what happens is that you get more warming over land than you do over oceans,” he said.

“The two most rapidly warming areas on the planet happen to be central Siberia and from the Mackenzie Delta, across the Yukon and up to Inuvik.”

Yukoners are already starting to feel the effects of global climate change.

The flooding that occurred last summer in the Marsh Lake area is a good example of some of the challenges to come.