Whitehorse Community Climate Change Adaptation Plan
Whitehorse is the largest community in Canada’s Yukon Territory. It was selected by the Northern Climate ExChange (NCE) to be one of three communities in the Yukon Territory given funding to develop a climate change adaptation plan. The first version of the Whitehorse Community Climate Change Adaptation Plan (WhiteCAP) was completed in September 2010. Eight pilot projects have since been funded.
Whitehorse is the largest city in the Yukon Territory, with an estimated 25,500 residents, or roughly 75% of the entire population of Yukon. It is located along the Yukon River in a mountainous boreal forest and is 650 meters above sea level. The surrounding land has wetlands, large lakes, open coniferous and mixed woodland dominated by pine, and supports a large and diverse mammalian population; an estimated 11 mammalian species found in the Yukon Territory are considered to be endangered. Whitehorse is in the rain shadow of the St. Elias/Coast Mountain Ranges and typically receives 200-350 mm of rainfall annually. Mean annual temperature for the area is -1°C to -2°C. Since the 1940s, annual temperature has increased an average of 0.4°C per decade, with winter temperatures increasing by 0.9°C per decade. Annual precipitation has increased by 1.6 mm per decade, with summer precipitation increasing by 2.3 mm per decade.
In the past, forest fires, flooding, and extreme weather events have threatened Whitehorse; climate change is expected to exacerbate some of these threats. Sixty-five climate scenarios were created for the Whitehorse area using the Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning (SNAP) model to assess how climate change may affect the region. Projections were forecasted to 2030 and 2050 using two standard IPCC scenarios (B1 – overall reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and A1B – highest levels of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050). Results indicate that the mean annual temperature in the region is expected to increase by 2.1-3.7°C, with winter experiencing the most significant warming of 2.9-5.4°C. Precipitation is expected to increase from 585-657 mm per year, with the greatest increases in winter and fall.
Whitehorse was selected by the NCE to be one of three communities given support to develop a climate change adaptation plan using funds from the Yukon Northern Strategy Trust. Whitehorse is the second community to undertake an adaptation plan (see the case study on the Dawson Community Climate Change Adaptation Plan). The goal of the project is to help the community assess the challenges and opportunities climate change may present, develop a plan of action, and implement pilot actions from the plan.
Beginning in June 2009, community members from the City of Whitehorse were invited to three workshops, community input sessions, and four open houses to encourage community involvement during the WhiteCAP planning process. In addition, a Local Advisory Committee was created with representatives from the Yukon Government, City of Whitehorse, Yukon Conservation Society, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, and Kwanlin Dün First Nation Government.
The WhiteCAP planning process has two phases: planning and implementation. The planning portion was based upon a community vulnerability assessment using four climate change scenarios, detailed in the report Future Histories of Whitehorse: Scenarios of Change. Based upon these scenarios, the community identified 237 potential climate-related impacts and developed 245 adaptation strategies to address these impacts. In order to prioritize adaptation strategies, the project team conducted two levels of risk assessment of community vulnerability. Based on these assessments, 22 adaptation strategies were prioritized to address climate change.
Outcomes and Conclusions
Approximately $120,000 was provided for communities to pilot the WhiteCAP adaptation strategies. Eight projects, selected by the Whitehorse Local Advisory Committee, have been funded for 2010-2011. These projects range from the development of educational signage to the collection of groundwater data for the city. A final report will be drafted at the conclusion of the implementation period in the summer of 2011.
Feifel, K. and Gregg, R.M. (2011). Whitehorse Community Climate Change Adaptation Plan [Case study on a project of the Northern Climate ExChange]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/whitehorse-community-climate-change-adaptati… (Last updated August 2011)