Canada’s Frozen North Feels Financial Burn Of Global Warming


Source: Reuters

YELLOWKNIFE, Northwest Territories, Canada, Oct 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – C limate change is taking a heavy economic toll on Canada's far north, with buildings collapsing as melting permafrost destroys foundations, rivers running low and wildfires all a drain on the region's limited finances, senior government officials said.

A sprawling area spanning the Arctic Circle with a population of less than 50,000, Canada's Northwest Territories has spent more than $140 million in the last two years responding to problems linked to global warming, the territory's finance minister said.


"Our budgets are getting squeezed dramatically from climate change," Finance and Environment Minister J. Michael Miltenberger told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The roads are constantly moving as the permafrost is melting… massive shore erosion is putting buildings at risk. We have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years and the tie to climate change is more and more evident."

In this windswept territory, which already relies on central government subsidies, responding to global warming is crucial for its financial survival.

A major U.N. conference in Paris in December will aim to create a new global deal to curb climate change to take effect from 2020.

Scientists want to keep international temperature rises below 2 degrees compared with pre-industrial levels, while providing poor countries with money for adaptation.

But in parts of the Northwest Territories, average temperatures have already risen more than three degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, government officials said.


Rapidly thawing permafrost is causing countless roadways to become all but impassible.

"In Paris, we are hoping for whatever it takes to turn this (climate change) around," politician Bob Bromley told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in the territorial capital, Yellowknife.

"It's going to require all hands on deck, and willing hands."

Diesel Dependence

The delicate ecosystem of the wide-skied territory, home to the indigenous Dene people, and where wolves, caribou and bison roam, has been plunged into a environmental vicious cycle.

Climate change has been linked to decreased water levels in the territory's major rivers, partly due to greater evaporation, causing a sharp contraction in hydro electric power generation.

As a result, the government has had to import more diesel, borrowing about $30 million this year alone to make up for the electricity shortfall, hurting its budget and increasing climate-warming emissions in a catastrophic feedback loop.

"It's not sustainable," said Miltenberger, the finance and environment minister.

He called on Canada's national government to provide more financial help for climate change mitigation, particularly in renewable power, to reduce the costs of importing diesel.

With a small population, and high operating costs due to its size and climate, the territory's main employers are diamond mining and the public sector. The region's indigenous people rely on the hunting of caribou as a key food source, but herds are declining, with climate change likely a significant driver.

Northwest Territories receives financial transfer payments of about $1.3 billion, or about $29,000 per resident, from Canada's national government to run public services.

Craig Scott, executive director of Ecology North, a Yellowknife-based environmental group, believes the government should have invested earlier in renewable energy.

Fuel trucks hauling diesel along gravel roads to small rural communities are a common site across the territory.

Generators have been working around the clock following the decline in hydro power, Scott said, and new holding tanks had to be imported to store the diesel.

"Renewable energies (including) micro hydro, solar and biomass have high capital costs in the short-term," Scott told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "But they are sustainable versus the long-term pain of diesel."

Source: Reuters

2 Responses to Canada’s Frozen North Feels Financial Burn Of Global Warming

  1. Bella_Fantasia says:

    Of course we're having the same trouble in Alaska as the Yukon territories, but the response here is so much more stupid.  Whole villages will have to move, but there's no addressing the role of fossil fuels as part of the problem.  Alaska is pushing harder than ever for a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope, and our "representatives" in Washington got Alaska exempted from the new small limits on power plant emissions. Their excuse was we cannot "afford" to limit emissions.  All republicans now, they cannot pay a cent for preserving environmental quality. . . . .  because corporations.

    The lack of acknowledgement regarding the thawing reality and the complete lack of vision is galling.  

  2. cheska says:

    This is so sad, and i'm afraid this is what will be coming to more and more locations very soon (if it hasn't already).  More tipping points are being reached every day. 

    Actually just saw this news article posted earlier tonight .. "Global warming could be melting ancient methane gasses under the Oregon coast"

    .. and i had to wonder – is this why so many of the fish, starfish, seals, dophins and birds are dying on the Oregon/California/Washington coastlines??  Surely it's not the only reason but I certainly don't imagine that big methane releases are helping :\   

    I found it ironic that the articles title states that "global warming COULD be warming and releasing methane stored in the ocean beds".  Then it goes on to say that it IS causing it and that it's only the beginning .. there's more warming to come no matter what we do.

    Sometimes news like this makes me so angry that i immediately jump into whatever i can to do stop what's happening.  I write letters, i make phone calls, i send emails … but other times, it is just SO depressing that it literally makes me physically sick.  And all i can think is what the hell is wrong with people anymore????!!  🙁

    Thanks to everyone who contributes to this fight against geoengineering.  Indeed, it's often only the words i read on this website that help keep me halfway sane and help me process all this information.  If it weren't for you all, my friends & family might have convinced me that i really was crazy by now (they certainly look at me like i am every time i mention geoengineering).  I always keep you all in my thoughts and prayers. 

    And i will add the people in the Northern Territories to those thoughts.  I hope they are able to move to more renewable energies and stop their dependence on fossil fuels.  Their way of life has already changed but perhaps if we stopped this agressive engineering of the weather, we could stop some of the bigger changes that are sure to come.  Or at the very LEAST it would allow the planet to begin healing the damage we have done.  (though i doubt we will ever seen 'normal' again in our lifetime 🙁

    Renewable energy and accomodations for living with climate change.  IMO that is where our funding should be going – LONG before Paris 2020!!!

    take care all ~ T

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *