Date: March 13, 2014
Time: 3:30 - 5:00 PM
Location: 161 Louis-Pasteur, Colonel By Room A707

The Arctic is being redefined in ways that will shape Canada for the next century. Increased navigability of Arctic waters as a result of climate change is now intersecting with the global appetite for untapped natural resources and visions of a new trade route through the Northwest Passage. Vessel traffic has grown by more than 75% over the past decade and activity is occurring in areas that were previously inaccessible. Climate change is thought to play a critical role in influencing shipping trends, not only through increases in accessibility due to diminishing sea ice, but also through a lengthening of the shipping season, thus providing new opportunities for economic development, increased employment, greater sharing of culture and history, and assertion of national domain.

Federal strategies for Arctic Canada promise infrastructure creation and attention to the economic opportunities arising – yet current policy frameworks and funding envelopes are at their limits, illustrating a gap between reality and the political desire for growth and development. There are also significant concerns associated with increased navigational hazards present in Arctic Canada. Changing ice dynamics and poorly charted waters present both environmental and human risks. The situation is testing our sovereignty and security and is bringing new challenges to Indigenous society.

This presentation will provide an overview of current shipping trends in Arctic Canada, outline the potential risks and opportunities, and present some important issues requiring urgent policy attention. Empirical studies will be referenced to provide answers to questions such as: Is climate change the primary driver of the increase in Arctic shipping? Can we expect the Northwest Passage to be a new global transportation route? What governance challenges exist for managing this new shipping frontier? What questions need our immediate attention?

Jackie Dawson

Jackie Dawson is the Canada Research Chair in Environment, Society and Policy and is an Assistant professor in Geography at the University of Ottawa. Her research on the human and policy dimensions of environmental change focus strongly on, climate change impacts, vulnerability, adaptation, economic development, shipping trends, and marine governance and policy. She works closely with coastal communities in Arctic Canada affected by changing environmental and economic conditions.