Climate change in Yukon

  • How climate change impacts Yukon
  • What is the government doing about climate change?
  • What can I do about climate change?
  • Plans and studies
  1. How climate change impacts Yukon

    What is climate change?

    Earth’s climate has always changed over time, but the scale of changes happening now has never been seen before.

    Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, trap heat in the atmosphere. Their concentration in Earth's atmosphere is on the rise and it affects our climate. This increase is largely the result of human activities like burning fossil fuels.

    Climate change has a greater and faster impact on the North than on other parts of the world. Yukon’s average temperature has increased by 2.3°C between 1948 and 2016, and winter temperatures have increased by 4.3°C over the same time period. Northern Canada will continue to warm at more than double the global rate.

    How does climate change affect Yukon?

    Climate change impacts that Yukon faces include:

    • increased average temperatures;
    • changes in amounts of rain and snow;
    • more extreme weather events like lightning storms, strong winds, flooding and fires;
    • changing habitat for plants and animals causing some species to move or decrease and new invasive species to move north;
    • melting glaciers and sea ice;
    • thawing permafrost; and
    • changes to lake, river and water quality.

     

    These changes impact Yukoners by:

    • limiting access to country and traditional foods;
    • affecting the traditional activities and culture of Yukon’s Indigenous peoples as wildlife patterns shift; and
    • causing damage to buildings, roads, power lines, water supplies and other critical infrastructure.

     

    Climate change and your health

    Climate change can have direct and indirect impacts on your health. For example:

    • Changes to diets because of reduced availability of country and traditional foods can increase obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
    • Air pollution from wildland fires can worsen existing conditions like lung and heart disease.
    • Extreme weather events and more frequent avalanches and landslides can lead to injuries and death, and affect mental health.
    • Melting permafrost can cause damage to buildings and can lead to injuries, and affect mental health.
    • As invasive species and diseases from warmer climates move north, we could encounter new pests and diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks and other animals.
    • More ultraviolet (UV) radiation heightens the risk of contracting conditions associated with sun exposure like skin cancer and cataracts.
    • Decreased water availability and quality can cause more instances of waterborne diseases.

     

    By being better prepared and adapting to changing conditions, communities and individuals can reduce the negative impacts of climate change on health. Acting today will strengthen the resiliency of our communities and improve the health of people living in them.

    See Emergencies and safety to find out measures individuals and communities can take or review the Climate Change and Health Impacts and Actions brochure for more information.

  2. What is the government doing about climate change?

    Around the world, governments are changing the way they address climate change. They are building resilient communities and low-carbon economies that sustain clean growth. 

    We intend Yukon to take part in this shift. 

    The Government of Yukon, Yukon First Nations, transboundary Indigenous groups and Yukon municipalities have partnered to develop a new Climate Change, Energy and Green Economy Strategy. A draft will be released for public engagement by the end of 2019. Our goal is to enhance Yukon’s capacity to prepare for, respond to, and thrive in a rapidly changing climate.

    For updates on our previous climate change commitments, see the 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018 Climate Change Action Plan and Progress Reports.

    For more information about climate change in Yukon, email climatechange@gov.yk.ca or phone: 867-456-5565 or toll-free in Yukon: 1-800-661-0408, ext. 5565.

    Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change

    Yukon is part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. The framework commits the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada to collaborate in the following areas.

    • Advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency projects
    • Building resilient communities
    • Developing new research and pilot projects

    The Pan-Canadian Framework also lays out Canada’s plan to put a price on carbon across the country. Applying that plan began July 1, 2019.

    Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

    Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are one of the pollutants driving climate change. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most well-known GHG. It accounts for the majority of human-caused emissions. CO2 can last for up to centuries in the earth’s atmosphere so lowering CO2 emissions now will help to reduce long-term negative impacts.

    What are Yukon’s GHG emissions?

    While Yukon’s emissions accounts for only 0.1% of Canada’s overall GHG emissions, our amount of emissions per person are comparable to the rest of the country. In 2017 Yukoners produced 18 tonnes of emissions per person. This is the sixth highest per-person rate for emissions in Canada. Yukon's total GHG emissions in 2017 were 693 kilotonnes.

    The most significant sources of GHG emissions across Yukon are:

    • transportation: 61% of total emissions, including road and air; and
    • heating buildings: 21% of total emissions.

    Carbon pricing

    Carbon pricing is a cost effective way for Canada to reduce emissions. It will foster innovation in renewable energy and efficiency, and help build a strong, low carbon economy.

    Find out more about carbon pricing in Yukon.

    What other ways is the Government of Yukon reducing GHG emissions?

    The Government of Yukon undertakes a number of programs, policies and actions to reduce GHG emission in Yukon. 

    Energy Solutions Centre

    The Energy Solutions Centre offers numerous incentives and programs to help Yukoners reduce their carbon footprint. 

    Rideshare

    The Yukon Rideshare Program intends to reduce GHG emissions from personal transportation by matching potential carpool drivers with passengers. It is a partnership between the City of Whitehorse and the Government of Yukon.

    First Nation Solar Micro-generation partnership

    The Government of Yukon acquired funding from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to support a number of solar installations on Yukon First Nation buildings throughout the territory.

    Micro-generation Program

    This program provides the opportunity for individuals and small businesses to generate their own electricity from renewable energy sources and sell unused electricity back to the grid. Since 2014, Yukoners have added 166 solar systems totaling over 1.5 MW of capacity to our hydro grid and to 4 of our 5 diesel mini-grids.

    Innovative Renewable Energy Initiative

    The Innovative Renewable Energy Initiative is a $1.5 million fund to support and encourage community participation in commercial-scale electrical or heat generation from renewable sources. The funding is available for projects proposed by community-based governments, public-membership community organizations, or private-sector organizations. The funding will support projects using wind turbines, photovoltaic solar panels, gasification or run-of-river hydro. 

    Energy efficient government buildings

    We are committed to building new high energy-efficiency facilities. Past construction projects include the:

    • Tombstone Interpretive Centre;
    • Whitehorse Correctional Centre;
    • Emergency Response Centre; and
    • FH Collins High School.

     

    Waste diversion

    We have created waste diversion programs across multiple Government of Yukon buildings, including:

    • the Main Administration Building;
    • the Department of Education administration building; and
    • 18/28 of Yukon’s schools.

     

    Adapting to climate change in Yukon

    Yukoners feel the impacts of climate change as we drive on bumpy highways and deal with cracks in our public infrastructure caused by permafrost thaw. Yukon plants and animals are becoming less abundant and are moving into new areas. Climate change affects our health, safety, economy, culture and lifestyle.

    “Adaptation” refers to the efforts we must take to prepare for current and upcoming impacts from climate change so we can remain safe and healthy while continuing to flourish. Adapting is key to our approach to climate change. Adaptation efforts complement the actions taken by the government and others to reduce GHG emissions.

    How is Yukon adapting to climate change?

    The Government of Yukon received $1.987 million in funding through Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada’s Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program. The funding will support 14 climate change adaptation projects over 4 years (2017 to 2021). Projects cover a variety of topics, including:

    Dempster Highway permafrost vulnerability mapping

    Researchers are studying conditions underneath the Dempster Highway to create a map showing which areas are vulnerable to damage from permafrost.

    Predicting the effects of climate change on winter ticks

    This project will establish a baseline of winter tick distributions in the Yukon to better understand climate change’s effects on winter tick development. By doing this, we can create a model that supports management decisions about Yukon moose, caribou, deer and elk populations.

    Predicting forest fire risk across Yukon

    Researchers are developing maps and models of current and future chances of fire risk across Yukon. From this data, we can identify where fire risk is likely to increase, and what resulting disturbances to the landscape we can expect.

    Monitoring and planning for health impacts of extreme events

    Researchers are collecting data on the health impacts of past extreme weather and fire events. This data will improve emergency planning for these situations and allow us to develop tools to respond to the short and long-term health impacts.

    Government of Yukon climate risk assessment

    Researchers are identifying key climate change related risks for the Government of Yukon. Based on these findings, we will create and implement a climate risk framework and develop actions that reduce climate risk for our activities, programs and assets.

    Working together in the North

    Yukon is part of the Pan-territorial Adaptation Partnership, a collaboration between the three territories to address climate change adaptation in the North.

  3. What can I do about climate change?

    There are several actions you can take to lower your emissions, cut costs and help make our environment more sustainable.

    RideShare

    Connect on the RideShare app and save money and lower emissions by carpooling, or track the emissions you save when you walk or bike to work.

    Good Energy rebates

    Get money back through Good Energy rebates when you make energy-efficient choices for your home or business.

    Other ideas

  4. Plans and studies

    In 2006, the Government of Yukon developed a Climate Change Strategy that led to 2009's Climate Change Action Plan. See the progress reports for 2012 and 2015, and the update for 2018.

    We have contributed to several major studies on climate change in Yukon, including:

    You can also find data on the effects of climate change through our State of the Environment Reports