Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

CHANGES AFOOT – The Yukon Climate Change Indicators and Key Findings 2015 report states that Yukon winters have been getting warmer in the past 50 years. Here, the Yukon River is seen in January, with portions of it still not frozen.

Yukon to feel impacts of climate change

A new report documenting climate change in the Yukon has been released – and its findings are pretty grim.

By Aimee O'Connor on February 11, 2016

A new report documenting climate change in the Yukon has been released – and its findings are pretty grim.

The report, titled Yukon Climate Change Indicators and Key Findings 2015, compiled research to form a list of key findings that cover 10 areas.

“The issue of climate change is going to be around for a while,” said the report’s author, John Streicker.

“We realized that (this) would be a good way to try and keep track of things over time.”

Perhaps most notably, it found that the Yukon’s annual temperature has risen at double the rate than in southern Canada, and the entire planet.

In the past 50 years, the annual average temperature has climbed by 2 C, with the highest increase of 4 C occurring during the winters.

Backing up the temperature findings is the widespread melting of glaciers and sea ice and degrading permafrost.

“Yukon has lost 22 per cent of its glacial cover,” the report states.

The thawing permafrost is particularly problematic for the North – it can disrupt mine dams and tailing ponds that are dependent on permafrost berms, as well as destabilize buildings and other infrastructure.

It also changes how greenhouse gases are released from soil, vegetation and coastal oceans.

It is not just the temperature that’s on the rise.

Annual precipitation has risen by roughly six per cent in the past 50 years, with the largest increase occurring during the summers.

Higher levels of greenhouse gases are expected to contribute to a 10- to 20-per-cent increase in precipitation over the next five decades.

More precipitation translates to changes to the Yukon’s water systems, adding flood risk to the list of concerns.

The report adds that rain and storm events are also likely to get worse.

The report acknowledges that because precipitation levels can vary, there is less confidence in determining the trends in the Yukon.

Though a lot of signs are pointing to negative impacts, Streicker notes there is a silver lining to some of it.

The warmer climate means a longer summer growing season for agriculture, he said.

“And when you’ve got warmer winters, you need less heating fuel. Your energy costs and emissions go down,” Streicker added.

While this seems like a good thing all around, it will likely put stress on others in the territory.

“For Yukon First Nations, the effects of climate change on wildlife and food security are the two biggest concerns,” the report states.

For foraging animals, climate change alters access to food, the nutrient value in food sources, breeding grounds and migration routes. There have already been observed changes to caribou and salmon migration patterns.

“There are no current predictions of what the cumulative impact(s) will be other than to note it will put stress on the species.”

At the heart of the report’s findings, the stress and strain that climate change puts on things is what’s most problematic.

Because all of the impacts and findings are grouped together in one report, it forms a clearer picture to those reading and using the report, Streicker said.

“It’s useful because it tells a story of climate change in the North,” said Stephen Roddick of the Yukon government’s Climate Change Secretariat.

“Northern communities are resilient,” the report says.

But a quickly changing climate is the ultimate test of that resilience – and something the government would like to enhance, Roddick added.

“I think it’s pretty natural for people to adapt,” Streicker said.

It’s dealing with the causes of climate change than can be more complex, he noted.

The Yukon government is working to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, which is a start. For individuals, he suggests trying a day-long “fossil fuel diet”, to see where people’s dependencies are.

By taking measures in existing planning processes, considerations for issues such as thawing permafrost can be incorporated into building plans for future infrastructure, for example.

The Yukon Climate Change Indicators and Key Findings 2015 was developed through the Northern Climate ExChange.

It was reviewed in partnership with the Council of Yukon First Nations and Climate Change Secretariat.

In December, the secretariat released a progress report for its 2009 Climate Change Action Plan. Within the report, it was stated that the government would continue to support updates and development of the Yukon Climate Change Indicators and Key Findings.

It will likely be reviewed on an annual basis, taking into consideration any new research that may have come up throughout the year, Roddick said.

An emphasis going forward will be put on traditional knowledge, which helps enhance the local perspective to climate change.

Comments (30)

Up 15 Down 15

ProScience Greenie on Feb 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm

It is OK to be a right leaning pro-business fiscal conservative and green-minded at the same time. Nothing wrong with that. The problem is that we should take the blinders off and see that we are crapping in our own nest. Not a good thing.

Up 11 Down 12

reacting with little on Feb 16, 2016 at 12:35 am

the area is 510 million squared.
agriculture and fish are jobs
families are going bankrupt
the earth was here long before and will be here long after
you're trying to protect something that you have zilch for impact on and you're letting your fellow man suffer.

Do this old experiment;
Start walking into the forest in a straight line. Just keep walking. Tell me when earth provides you with what you need. Please take no clothes, bottled water, matches, etc. Nothing pre-procurred, ... nothing. Don't follow trails that were made by man.
Tell me which one helps you survive longer, friends, family, community, or this giant rock that seems to develop ever newer ways to kill us.

Your area effected by bottom trawling. . . please define effected. Do you know that skipping a stone on a lake effects the lake!? What effect are you talking about?

This is hype and more importantly it's in the hopes of undermining a national economy in the hopes of allowing the U.S and other interested countries access to resources. Shut down the north and reopen it when we've set the limits for extrapolation.

You're beating yourself over the head with numbers and fear through a screen versus... what do you actually see each day?
It's a community; I doubt you're from it.

Up 25 Down 10

Atom on Feb 15, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Sally and pro oil folk.....sadly it matters not what would be best for our health and our planet's health, because if it doesn't make somebody money, it wont see the light of day.
Example windmills.....they require capital to build, and they need to generate revenue to pay for themselves, their maintenance and create profit into the future. The fact they can boast a small (though they are made of mass produced metals!) ecological footprint as a 'renewable' energy source, may be the sales pitch required for their existence. Because when the wind doesn't blow, they produce exactly nothing. However, everything has an economic angle.
Just like creating a concern far outweighing reality can benefit the sector of the economy that promotes it.
Oilsands are just there in the ground and when the economy comes around, will make for a healthier country economically

Up 18 Down 6

ProScience Greenie on Feb 15, 2016 at 1:18 pm

Here are some rough numbers.

World oceans – 360 million km2. Estimated area affected by bottom trawling – 50 million km2 = 13% of ocean floor affected.
Surface area of Earth – 150 million km2. Area used for agriculture – 50 million km2 = 30% of land surface area.

Average global output of C02 by volcanic activity - 0.44 gigatons per year. C02 released in 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption – 0.05 gigatons. Annual global human C02 emissions – 32.3 gigatons (2012).

Take a look at how lit up our planet is when photographed at night from Earth’s orbit.

Argue all you want about the long term impacts of AGW or the politics or the proposed solutions but you can’t deny that humans have a big impact and that it is something that any thinking person should be concerned about. Again, just do the math.

Up 15 Down 7

Alan Miner on Feb 15, 2016 at 11:39 am

This study has some references which are pretty much fluff but they mean well

Up 8 Down 10

Mr clown on Feb 15, 2016 at 11:03 am

It's called geo-engineering.

Up 25 Down 4

north_of_60 on Feb 13, 2016 at 5:56 pm

Burning fossil fuels sold in the Yukon emits 550 to 700 kiloTonnes of CO2e per year. That's 15 to 19 tonnes of CO2e per person each year based on our resident population. That does not include the number of tourists and miners who add to our fossil fuel consumption and raise it from 15 to 19 tonnes percapita. Compare that with 16 T percapita for Canada, USA & Saudi Arabia, and 19 T percapita for Australia in an average recent year.

The Yukon contribution is 0.0016% to 0.0020% of the global total GHGs for a year. It's 1 drop in a gallon; literally 'a drop in the bucket'. China's contribution is 30% of the total. Everyone in the Yukon could stop using ALL fossil fuels forever, and the global GHG concentration, which purportedly drives climate change, wouldn't change by any measurable amount. The amount we emit is less than the margin of error in estimating Asia's contribution.

If you want to reduce GHGs, then don't buy 'stuff' you don't really need, especially if it's made in countries like China, USofA, and India who produce most of the pollution that's killing the planet. Making and shipping all that 'stuff' for us to buy is contributing more CO2e and toxic pollution than all the fossil fuel we burn to heat our buildings or run our vehicles.

We are mostly causing the problem with the cheap imported cr@p we buy not the fuel we use.

Up 18 Down 5

Reacting with little on Feb 13, 2016 at 4:45 pm

#Sally Wright.
No, you're missing the point.
First of all less than 1% of the land mass of Canada is developed.
The entire population of humans takes up less than 1% of the ocean.
What I'm saying is that as "stewards" of Earth humans are outnumbered. We don't have a serious effect on the earth. If you believe that; fight your ego.

Electrons on the way of the future? Energy being transplanted and changed etc.

North of 60 and the rest are going after the major issues which take the problem down from the top. Opening China caused a huge increase in waste (still very small), fracking is still going strong, oil will never be replaced (because oil is oil). Our consumption of it is from bicycle tires to chain lube.

I, personally (because there is another I somewhere?), choose to live a life that sees me use less when possible and at times I may tend to use more than necessary. I'm doing my best. But all in all when the sun explodes and the universe is treated to the spectacle, I'll be part of the same mass that you are.

Do memories have mass? What is a memory?
Lived here my entire life. The fear is simple; when you start looking into something you'll be shocked at what you didn't know.
If you don't study the problem or think of it... it ceases to exist. Prove me wrong on that.

Up 6 Down 19

P.Eng on Feb 13, 2016 at 9:08 am

Your link to the ice out dates is most emphatically NOT an accurate record of Yukon climatic conditions. It's stats showing the ice out dates. Period.
Out of curiosity, what is your background with respect to being able to make any sort of rational argument re. anthropogenic/non climate change?

Up 17 Down 7

Jerry on Feb 12, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Is John not the Green Party? Does anyone think this report might be biased?

Up 13 Down 65

Sally Wright on Feb 12, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Comparing a 50 year study to the 4 billion year old life of the planet flies in the face of your obvious gift for arithmetic @ Acting with little.

This Climate Change that we are experiencing right now is created by the human species that has only been around in it's present form as Homo sapiens for 200,000 years.
We only started burning fossil fuels on an industrial level 200 years ago. Before that the carbon pollution we created could be absorbed by the existing natural carbon cycle. 200 years ago we started burning carbon that was 1 billion years old and throwing all that carbon into the air.
In that tiny geological window of 200 years we have managed to do what no species has done on this planet ever before, actually raise sea levels, acidify the oceans and cause the polar icecaps to destabilize.
We are doing this to ourselves, but mostly to our children.

The age of oil is over. The price of oil and the resulting market instability are showing it. Capital is moving away from oil into renewable energy, mass transportation and food security. The pipelines are going to be pounded into transmission lines. Electrons are the currency of our energy future.
I think enough humans understand that climate change is real and now through the internet are starting to realize the opportunity change pushes us towards.

Energy is all around for us to harvest, solar wind and water. We are an intelligent and caring species so we don't have to go back to the stone ages to get off this fossil fuel addiction. Farming energy is the way of the future.

And for the people who say the Yukon is too small a jurisdiction to matter, I say you underestimate our community's innovation and resilient strength. If the Yukon figures out how to live in such a cold, dark place on renewable energy, then we can be a model for the rest of the world and do our part that way. We may be small but we punch way above our weight in so many ways.

Up 14 Down 1

north_of_60 on Feb 12, 2016 at 2:47 pm

This table shows the date and time the ice broke-up at Dawson since 1898. This is the longest, continuous, most accurate record for the climate in the Yukon River basin. http://www.yukonriverbreakup.com/statistics
A graph of the data shows how the Yukon climate is changing. When the winters were colder longer, then the ice went out later; warmer shorter winters let the ice out earlier. A linear average through all the dates shows a simple trend. On average, since 1898 the ice has gone out six days earlier.
In the past hundred years our average growing season has increased by almost a week. Mainly because our winters have gradually become warmer and shorter.

Up 14 Down 10

Watson 42 on Feb 12, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Seems like the polar bears have nothing to worry about - the power of denial will save them from the evil myths of physics.

Up 30 Down 11

moe on Feb 12, 2016 at 2:03 pm

'Climate change is going to be around for a long time.' I can't believe such an innane comment still flies. Climate change has ALWAYS been around.
I'm just glad it is getting warmer as we exit the last ice age and approach 'normal' temperatures, rather than going back into another ice age.

Such drama!

Up 28 Down 14

ProScience Greenie on Feb 12, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Simple math, science and a bit of high school geography will show that the very large scale of industrial and other human activity on this finite sized planet is significant enough to have an impact on normal climate cycles. That is just the way it is when you add up the numbers. We are a big deal on the planet with day by day and year by year emissions growing. They are for example, greater than that of normal volcanic activity. Look that up, it's a fact. It would be foolish to ignore the real science and even more foolish to deny it.

So trust the overall science, we are a big deal on the planet, but feel free to be critical of the politics, money, players, proposed solutions and any and all doomsday talk or conspiracy theories.

Solutions are needed and they don't necessarily have to be about higher taxes or more socialist policies, so speak up and put your two cents in about how we can wisely move forward with getting our footprint under control.

Up 11 Down 15

climatehawk1 on Feb 12, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Love some of the comments. Like the guy falling out of a 20-story building said as he passed the 19th floor, "Everything's OK so far." What if the science is right, and this is not a linear but accelerating change?

Up 20 Down 2

north_of_60 on Feb 12, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Correction: The overall yearly average change is less than a degree in 50 years, or 0.2°C per decade [0.02 per year].

This region was even warmer 8000 years ago during the Holocene Optimum.
The rate and amount of warming we're experiencing is within the range of historical natural variation.

If you're concerned about your contribution to global GHGs, then stop buying stuff from Asia. Especially stuff that quickly ends up in the landfill. The dirty coal that's burned in Asia to make all that stuff, and the dirty bunker oil that's burned to ship it here, contribute far more GHGs than the fossil fuel we burn to drive our vehicles and heat our buildings.

Up 27 Down 11

Reacting with little on Feb 12, 2016 at 11:30 am

The information that was studied consists of 50 years.

so 50 / 4,530,000,000 (years earth has been around...according to science. If you believe the earth only existed for as long as you'll be able to think about it then an average of 71 years*human life expectancy)
= 1.1307 x 10^-8 or .0000000114
The certainty or trend that you've covered looks at .0000000113 of the problem.


Stats also show that we're effected more by countries such as India and China ... i.e .get rid of Canadian population and you'd see no impact on climate or CO2 emissions.

Up 26 Down 11

climate change on Feb 12, 2016 at 10:34 am

This not necessarily climate change but the change of the orbit around the sun which has changed the weather patterns that affect our climate.
Climate change by most known science people has changed a lot in the last two years to determine other major factors effecting our world.
For example the weather that flows north into the gulf of Alaska comes from the shores of the US making it warmer.
Our climate is going to change naturally over time.
For example there is volcanic actions under the northern ice which has been known for some time but not sure of the impact.
There are natural gases leaking from the earth all the time.
Population of the earth is the biggest issue and the waste we create is the most dangerous to our climate than anything else.

Up 17 Down 26

really on Feb 12, 2016 at 9:55 am

This report reflects many of the models developed nearly twenty years ago when the Canadian Arctic Strategy was active. Back then the evidence and models were substantiated by hard science blended with traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples. During that time in the Yukon only a handful of individuals were fighting for change and advocating for adaptation measures in anticipation of the climate change model findings. Unfortunately, the global lead that Canada forged was lost when the Tories took power. They beefed up hydrocarbon extraction while gutting climate science and initiatives. Wake up people, industrial interests continue to discredit the science, yet, the models are becoming reality, and many continue to buy the industrial message that this is historical and naturally caused. Of course there has been changes in the earths climate, but never at such an accelerated rate with out some kind of traumatic climate event like meteors and gigantic volcanic eruptions. Admittedly, there are more people learning and understanding the cause and effect of sustained large scale hydrocarbon utilization, but there are many still who cannot, or will not accept the peril we face if we continue to buy the industrial message. I welcome this report and encourage its continued evolution. I am sure it has garnered a few more people to champion change.

Up 19 Down 27

mememine69 on Feb 12, 2016 at 7:43 am

Are the climate gods you eager "believers" exaggerate also only 99% certain the planet isn't flat?

GREEN is too YELLOW to admit they got caught RED handed exaggerating and abusing vague climate science ..... and and the last 35 years of years of debate, global denial and climate action failure proves it.

Is this how you climate drama queens want your kids and history remembering you?

Up 30 Down 25

jc on Feb 11, 2016 at 9:31 pm

Climate change/global warming - bring it on. Hoowah! I came up here as a young man in 1975. We never worried about sub freezing temperatures. Why are those environuts so worried about warmer temps? Maybe it's time to give thanks to God instead of constant complaining.

Up 23 Down 27

Arn Anderson on Feb 11, 2016 at 6:27 pm

Don't worry, even if it was happening our PM, JT the photo op master would come to get his photo taken before anything happens. That is what he does, photos with himself in it, JOB DONE.

Up 29 Down 15

BnR on Feb 11, 2016 at 5:47 pm

You can always count on some idiot to throw out the old "junk science" argument.

Up 29 Down 33

yukon56 on Feb 11, 2016 at 5:44 pm

What a crock, anyone who has lived here for decades know all things change. Impact on FN another crock.

Up 31 Down 8

north_of_60 on Feb 11, 2016 at 5:16 pm

If one looks at Environment Canada temperature data for southern Yukon [since 1943 available online] then one finds that average winter temperatures have increased by about 3°C in 50 years. There has been negligible change in average Spring, Summer and Fall temperatures. The overall yearly average change is less than a degree in 50 years, or 0.02°C per decade. That's 1/10th of the 'trend' that anthropogenic warming alarmists pin their argument to. If one analyzes temperature data trends from weather stations at small communities all across the Canadian boreal forest, one finds the same effect.

One can find alarming warming trends if one only looks at temperature data from urban heat islands. It depends on which 'experts' you want to believe, or you can look at the data and draw your own conclusions.

Up 52 Down 33

Science Over Rhetoric on Feb 11, 2016 at 5:08 pm

@Junk Science

There are two sides to this debate, on one side you have all major universities, scientific organizations, scientific foundations etc ....... on the other you have you have a small group of (usually disgruntled) privately funded scientists plus a large group of Conservative politicians and their die hard followers - like yourself with the childish comment about Trudeau. Occam's razor should tell you which side is correct.....

Once again: All Universities (like Harvard, Oxford, MIT etc), scientific organizations, publications (Scientific American, Popular Science etc) etc VS conservative politicians and industry funded scientists.

Up 53 Down 3

Bert on Feb 11, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Keep this story secret otherwise people will be invading the territory! X yukoner

Up 56 Down 67

Just Say'in on Feb 11, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Yes, this is a warm winter, but it has been before as well. 1976 was so warm river never froze and that was before the fourth wheel at the dam that keeps the water way warmer. In that year at Rendezvous there were no dog races on the river and they had canoe races instead. (Not Sanctioned) Can the Star please not be alarmist. This is an El Nino year, go easy on the opinions rhetoric and report the news. Personally I am loving the weather.

Up 64 Down 60

junk science on Feb 11, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Garbage in garbage out. Can already here the sucking sound pointed right at my wallet. Oh please baby Justin save me from this horrible poison that all living organisms exhale.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.