CR 54:181-196 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01118

Climate change vulnerability and adaptation in resource dependent communities: a case study from West Greenland

James D. Ford*, Christina Goldhar

Department of Geography, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H3A 0B9, Canada

ABSTRACT: This paper reports on a project conducted over 4 field seasons in the town of Qeqertarsuaq in West Greenland, identifying and examining vulnerability and adaptation to climate change. Drawing upon semi-structured interviews with community members (n = 132), key informant interviews with policy makers (n = 10), and analysis of secondary sources, we documented changes in sea ice regimes, temperatures, and wind. Vulnerabilities to these changes are primarily associated with hunting and fishing. Constrained access and availability of key wildlife resources and increased harvesting dangers are affecting individuals and households closely linked to the subsistence economy. Adaptations that are being employed combine both reactive and anticipatory interventions autonomously undertaken at an individual and household level, including traveling to new fishing grounds, seeking alternative sources of income when harvesting activities are not possible, preparing for the unexpected, and an increased reliance on boat transport. The role of women in supporting male hunters/fishers, knowledge of environmental conditions, the existence of alternative sources of income, diversity and flexibility in harvesting, and willingness to alter livelihoods, are important factors that underpin adaptive capacity. Institutional constraints, however, are a major impediment to adaptation and have reduced the flexibility which has enabled historic adaptation to changing conditions. While alternative income sources are increasingly important in light of recent stresses, occupational hunters face restrictions on money-earning from non-harvesting activities, and various harvesting quotas fail to reflect recent alterations in species availability with changing climatic conditions. More broadly, hunting regulations have contributed to the erosion of the moral economy of harvesting and have weakened social networks, increasing vulnerability to projected future changes in climate.


KEY WORDS: Climate change · Vulnerability · Adaptation · Greenland · Disko Bay · Qeqertarsuaq · Inuit · Fishing · Hunting · Indigenous


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Cite this article as: Ford JD, Goldhar C (2012) Climate change vulnerability and adaptation in resource dependent communities: a case study from West Greenland. Clim Res 54:181-196. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01118

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