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Climate Communication and Adaptation: Engaging Maritime Publics

My study on climate change communication compares maritime communities in diverse climate zones to identify differences and similarities in local perceptions of climate change and global climate action, and associated effects on local participation in environmental management. Does climate change communication mobilize or constrain local public engagement, and do those effects vary depending on the spatial, social and ecological attributes of places experiencing environmental change? I seek to understand how local environments and challenges are perceived and communicated in the context of climate change, how climate change is perceived as a societal and ecological phenomenon, and how different actors participate in climate change communication and environmental management.

I visited Western Nunavut for three weeks in June 2016, talking to residents and visitors to build a picture of community activities and interest (or disinterest) in climate change. I attended caribou public hearings held by the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board to observe public participation, the governance context and Inuit preparedness to engage in environmental decision-making. I hosted two open houses which attracted few attendees, and will heed local advice on how to generate more public interest in future. 

Some initial findings are (i) “government towns” like Cambridge Bay experience limited climate change communication because (in part) fewer residents pursue climate-sensitive traditional livelihoods compared to other Inuit communities; (ii) there is individual concern but also limited understanding about climate change; (iii) climate-change communication is largely non-deliberate, emerging in everyday communication about the weather and harvesting activities; (iv) public participation staged in administrative centres such as Cambridge Bay can discourage engagement of peripheral resource-dependent communities and their representatives attending participatory forums; and (v) spatial differences may affect climate change communication in different parts of the Arctic. I will continue the research in the Kitikmeot in 2017, and begin to compare data between the Arctic and the Asian Tropics, namely Indonesia.

Study Site Locations: Cambridge Bay

Project Contact:

Chui-Ling Tam, PhD, Assistant Professor 

Department of Geography

University of Calgary

(403) 220-5593


1) Ice melt in Cambridge Bay, June 2016. Is it happening earlier in the season?

2) Gone fishing! Cabins below Mount Pelly, June 2016.