Do northerners use the science behind climate change adaptation?

WHITEHORSE— Not everyone reads a 20-page report on climate change with the same enthusiasm they reserve for a new Harry Potter book, but some do.

Meagan Grabowski, a researcher with the Northern Climate ExChange at Yukon College, wanted to know why.

With funding from the Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Grabowski and her supervisor, Yukon College adjunct Doug Clark, spent the last year studying community uptake of climate change adaptation research in Yukon.

The pair will present their findings at an hour-long talk, beginning at the College at 10 a.m. on Friday Feb 3. The talk takes place in the North Boardroom at the Yukon Research Centre.

Grabowski’s research involved reviewing Climate Change Adaptation plans from Mayo, Whitehorse, Atlin, and a draft plan from Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

She also spent some time in Dawson City, interviewing individuals who are involved with the Dawson Climate Change Adaptation Plan. The 2011 plan, developed by the NCE to help Dawson navigate changing conditions, challenges, and opportunities, includes recommendations such as examining flood risk of the Tr’ondëk subdivision, and exploring technologies that will conserve permafrost.

Grabowski said it’s important for scientists to understand the factors that influence individuals to be open to using recommendations of climate research.

Grabowski said those factors can range from the logistical (if public climate change talks are only held in Whitehorse rather than rural communities, for example), to simple human chemistry – what scientists talk about and how they talk to people about it.

And they do need to talk about it. There is a perception that a lot of research is done in the Yukon but also a lot of questions about where findings go and who they are for, Grabowski said if trends continue communities may not be as keen to participate in research or host researchers.

Her research this year taught her more about how social science can give northerners effective ways to express what they want for their communities.