by Michael Bociurkiw
WHITEHORSE, Yukon Territory, Canada (HN, Feb. 20) -- Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie has expressed concern about what climate change could do to his own northern community, as well as to low lying nations such as the island nation of the Maldives.
Both areas are now seeing the stark reality of climate change. In the North, warmer temperatures and the melting of the Polar ice cap means that, for example, foreign ships are able to navigate sensitive Arctic water for a longer period each year. And some island nations in the south could literally disappear as rising ocean levels eat up coastlines.
For example, most of the Maldives' islands -- which stretch about 700 km (or 435 miles, roughly) southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean -- lie less than three feet above sea level and global warming poses a serious threat to much of the country. The positioning of the tiny island nation means they are much more at risk if global sea levels keep rising. Some scientists have warned that the islands could even be uninhabitable within 100 years.
In the Yukon, the impact of climate change has been apparent for quite some time.
"It's changing the Arctic environment considerably," Fentie told HUM News in an interview. "What we are experiencing is not only the receeding of the Arctic ice cap - which will create higher sea levels for example - the melting of permafrost, the infestation of insects and also other migrating species are now coming into the Yukon that arent indigenous - so that will change our environment. It's very complex."
One of the aspects the Yukon has focused heavily on, Fentie said, is adaptation: "How do we adapt to these changes so that as we adapt through it that we are better able to manage the situation."
Fentie agreed new sovereignty issues could arise as climate change opens up new shipping routes in the North.
"We are very pleased that the national government in Ottawa is taking steps to address that," he continued. "But it's part of what the global community must understand - it's not about being individual in this - the global community must come together and address these issues in the appropriate manner so that throughout the world, the experiences that we are seeing in the Arctic and in the northern regions ... that we all come together and do what's proper."
Canada's three territories -- Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut -- are at the frontline of Canada’s rctic sovereignty. All are being hit first and hardest in Canada's own climate change.