Impacts of climate change on the vulnerability of Inuit Arctic food systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Earth and Environment


This project aims to identify and characterise the causal factors determining present-day and potential
future vulnerability to food insecurity as a result of climate change in regional Inuit centres. Various
exposure-sensitivities, both climatic and anthropogenic, will be examined through the following
objectives: -
a) Develop novel approaches to better understand and qualify food insecurity, and its root causes, through
the application of a 'contextual vulnerability' approach (O'Brien et al., 2007; Clark et al., 2016).
b) Understand and characterize the influence of climatic and non-climatic vulnerability to food insecurity
at a regional Inuit population centre (e.g. Rankin Inlet), and the positive feedback mechanisms, if any,
that may result.
c) Examine the potential future vulnerability and adaptive capacity of communities to future climate
change impacts on food security, drawing upon objectives a) and b), and integrating climate scenarios
d) Identify and examine opportunities for adaptation to moderate the effects of climate change impacts on
food security
Key vulnerabilities against which food security will be assessed include age, gender, income, social
capital, level of dependence upon traditional methods (i.e. hunting, foraging, fishing), indigenous
knowledge, and wage-based economy. In order to collect data in these areas, this project proposes the
following methods:
1. Systematic review of published literature (peer reviewed, grey) to identify and characterize the
state of knowledge on food insecurity for indigenous populations across the circumpolar north,
with particular attention to the role of climatic factors.
2. Construct a questionnaire framework, augmented by individual interviews, which will examine
the prevalence of key exposure-sensitivities and their respective impact upon food insecurity,
and document and characterize various factors affecting food systems. Sample size is intended
to account for a minimum 7% of the total population - aiming for at least 300 subjects - and
survey a range of demographics, broken down on age, gender, income and social capital.
3. Implement participatory scenario planning at community-scale stakeholder workshops, with
global circulation models (GCM) informing the creation of scenarios, to develop a greater
understanding of decision-making networks and localised adaptive capacity within the
indigenous population centres.

In developing increasingly complex and multi-faceted relationships between natural and anthropogenic
environments, courtesy of an ever-more uncertain climatic future, there has never been a more critical
need to understand the scope of forthcoming obstacles to social, political and economic resilience in
Canada's Far North (Arctic Council, 2016). Despite national, regional and local strategies to combat food
insecurity and assess the fragility of natural and anthropogenic food systems across the Arctic and
Subarctic, many communities are subject to progressively increasing risk (NFSC, 2016). As of 2016, 69%
of a total population of 37,315 in Nunavut territory were classified as food insecure - a value 61% greater
than the remainder of the nation (NFSC, 2016; NBS, 2016). In spite of this, research into this disparity
has been limited as compared with other areas of the world, and has primarily focused upon smaller, more
isolated Nunavut communities (Ford, 2009; Prno et al., 2011). Few papers have examined the key factors
that may affect rates of food security, and therefore health, in larger, more populous Arctic/Subarctic
settlements, or gone so far as to hypothesise the future implications of current climate change scenarios
on food security. In order to effectively encourage and sustain resilience
and adaptive capacity over food scarcity across the entire range of social and demographic elements
within the polar and sub-polar regions, addressing this research gap is of critical importance.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000746/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1948646 Studentship ES/P000746/1 20/09/2017 30/09/2021 Angus Naylor