Northern communities face many unique challenges that are not usually considered by Canadians living in the South. Fluctuating costs of energy, remoteness, periods of inaccessibility, a cold harsh climate and ageing and inefficient infrastructure. One of the goals of the plan is to increase the resilience of Churchill as a northern community and its capacity to adapt to a changing climate. Churchill has substantial infrastructure investments by Northern standards, with the Hudson Bay Railway, Port of Churchill and the Churchill Airport. All three of these pieces of infrastructure are impacted by a changing cryosphere. For example, the railway that sits precariously on discontinuous and continuous permafrost. Or, the port, which must face the demands of an increasing shipping season as the result of declining sea-ice in the Hudson Bay. The costs associated with maintaining this infrastructure are increasing as the climate changes. This throws into question commercial viability for both the railway and the port. For climate projections, Churchill uses the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) of RCP8.5 until 2050 and 2060. The projections show hotter temperatures, wetter weather, more frost free days, more lightning, and higher winds. According to climatedata.ca, annual precipitation is expected to increase 10% by 2050, under a high emissions scenario. There may also be an increase from 96 frost-free days to 113.5 frost-free days by 2050. Churchill is rising; parts of Hudson Bay’s coastline has been rebounding up to 15 millimetres each year. As a consequence of this, sea-level in Churchill has fallen at a rate of about one metre a century. Other changes include: later freeze-up and earlier break-up of sea ice; decreased snow cover; permafrost loss.
In 2019, the Town of Churchill began development a Climate Change Adaptation Plan, which is a framework and strategy to build resilience and respond to the risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities Churchill and the surrounding region face in a changing climate. Churchill is a popular tourist destination, appearing in the New York Times list of “52 Places to Go” in 2020. It is also a place where people live and connect to the land. Harvesting from the land is how many First Nations members in Manitoba and Inuit in Nunavut are able to secure food for their communities. Many residents depend on the land to support their livelihoods. However, that land is changing through climate change. That means even the slightest change to the land can cause a very real impact on people’s lives. Climate change projections show that Churchill will experience an increase in both summer and winter temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, shorter sea-ice season, permafrost thaw, and more frequent and severe extreme weather events. The Climate Change Plan aims to set a future direction using best practices and the most up to date climate data, and to engage municipal staff, stakeholders and the public in conversations about climate change impacts and receive feedback. The Plan identifies how the climate is likely to change locally and includes projections of climate change impacts to Churchill and the surrounding region. It includes a risk, vulnerability and opportunity assessment of projected climate impacts, as well as an adaptation action plan for implementation that takes into account co-benefits.