Climate Change Adaptation for the Community of Paulatuk

Jessi Kershner
Posted on: 12/13/2010 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

Posted by

Jessi Kershner

Project Summary

Paulatuk is a small hamlet located in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the western Canadian Arctic. Climate change is considered to be a significant challenge for Inuit communities and is already being experienced in the Canadian Arctic. Adaptation to climate change impacts is occurring at the individual and household level, and to some extent, at the community level. However, broader policy initiatives, capacity building, and funding are needed in order to provide long-term strategies for the Paulatuk Hamlet. The Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan for Paulatuk documents and prioritizes climate change issues and concerns in the community, identifies potential adaptation strategies and resources available to mitigate impacts, and incorporates adaptation actions into existing policies and procedures. 


Paulatuk is a small hamlet (approximately 300 people) located adjacent to Darnley Bay in the Amundsen Gulf of the Northwest Territories, Canada. Climate-related change is already being observed in Paulatuk, including warmer winters and colder summers, earlier spring ice-break up and later fall freeze-up, open water and unexpected thin ice, changes in prevailing wind direction, and weather variability. Changes in the local environment are affecting travel conditions and wildlife patterns, which influences food availability. Local economic opportunities and subsistence harvesting are also affected by hunting regulations designed to protect species at risk from climate change. At the community level, permafrost thaw threatens municipal infrastructure and contributes to shoreline erosion.

Currently, the Hamlet of Paulatuk and local residents are adapting to climate change impacts. However, broader policy initiatives, capacity building, and funding are needed to deliver long-term adaptation strategies for these communities to cope with the likely effects of future climate change. 


The climate change adaptation planning process in Paulatuk was divided into four stages:

  1. Literature review and gap analysis. This stage identified current understanding of climate change vulnerability in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and was completed in 2009 (see Pearce et al. 2009; Ford and Pearce 2010).
  2. Vulnerability assessment and identification of adaptation actions. This stage built upon documented climate change issues in the community by holding a series of workshops to identify practical adaptation actions to address or mitigate climate change impacts. The ArcticNorth team also took stock of potential resources for funding and leadership, and incorporated adaptation strategies into existing relevant policies and procedures.
  3. Examine and prioritize adaptation actions. Adaptation actions were assessed for importance, urgency, feasibility, durability, mainstreaming, and timeline. Pathways to implementation were also mapped out.
  4. Implementation and performance monitoring. Prioritized adaptation actions will be implemented and monitored to evaluate progress.

Stages 2-3 were addressed in the Paulatuk Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan. Five working group themes were identified: Business and Economy; Culture and Learning; Health and Well-being; Subsistence Harvesting; and Transportation and Infrastructure. Adaptation Action Tables were developed for each theme. The tables contained five columns of information including: priority, adaptation action, climate change issue, desired outcome, and resources and leadership.

The highest priority issues identified by the Paulatuk community included:

  • Business and Economy
    • Changing and unpredictable environmental conditions negatively affects subsistence economy and creates need to diversify economy
  • Culture and Learning
    • Changing environmental norms impedes transmission of local environmental knowledge
    • Changing environmental conditions affects travel conditions and wildlife patterns, creating the need to develop new skills to travel and hunt
  • Health and Well-being
    • Changing travel conditions and species availability affects access to traditional foods, leading to increased consumption of store-bought foods, which are expensive and often less nutritious
    • Community well-being and resilience are strained by addictions (e.g., alcohol, gambling, drugs)
  • Subsistence Harvesting
    • Changing and unpredictable conditions decreases participation in subsistence activities, especially among youth
  • Transportation and Infrastructure
    • Increased blowing snow creates hazardous conditions (e.g. drifts, whiteouts)
    • Rising sea levels and increased storm activity accelerate shoreline erosion

Outcomes and Conclusions

Implementation of adaptation actions that address the above priority concerns is already occurring in some cases. In other cases, implementation is pending funding or additional expertise. Climate change is an important factor in the Paulatuk community, however, many other factors (e.g., health, housing, substance abuse, infrastructure, etc.) take the forefront. To mainstream adaptation, climate change should be addressed simultaneously with these other issues. Additionally, adaptation strategies do not necessarily need to be something new, but can make use of existing  local initiatives by incorporating climate change trends and adaptation needs into them. A similar adaptation action plan was designed for the community of Ulukhaktok, although their community priorities differed slightly.


Kershner, J. (2010). Climate Change Adaptation for the Community of Paulatuk [Case study on a project of ArcticNorth Consulting]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated December 2010)

Project Contacts

Affiliated Organizations

ArcticNorth Consulting was established by James Ford (PhD) and Tristan Pearce (PhD) to assist communities, businesses, and industry adapt to a changing climate. Dr. James Ford and Tristan Pearce are award winning scientists with extensive experience working with communities, governments, NGOs, and First Nations Groups across Canada and internationally on climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning. Their work has been disseminated in scholarly journals, books, policy reports, and major international publications (e.g. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report).

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