The Dawson Climate Change Adaptation Project (DCAP) was proposed to help Dawson residents prepare for any adverse conditions or opportunities climate change may present. Dawson was selected by the Northern Climate ExChange in 2008 to pilot a climate change adaptation strategy because of their prior community interest in climate change, existing infrastructure (i.e. a sustainability plan), existence of relevant research partners, and interest from First Nations.
At the project onset, a local advisory committee (LAC) was established to steer the project. One key goal of the local advisory committee was to engage the community in discussions of climate-related risks, vulnerabilities and values. To understand climate change projections, the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium was commissioned to identify future projected climate change (i.e. changes in temperature and precipitation for 2041 to 2070) specific to the Dawson region. By 2050, the Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM) projects that annual temperature in Dawson will increase by 2.5-3.5°C. Winter is expected to exhibit the greatest extent of warming, 4-6°C – some of the largest winter time temperature excursions out of anywhere in the Western North America region. Summer temperatures are expected to increase by 1.5-2.5°C, and precipitation is expected to increase by 10-40% but there is a high degree of uncertainty with these estimations.
Dawson then held a community input week to develop a regional climate change impacts scenario, analyze vulnerabilities, and develop adaptation strategies. Community vulnerabilities were prioritized based on the anticipated level of the impact, the likelihood of the impact, and the adaptive capacity of the community. Participants identified a series of impacts, including: permafrost thaw, forest fires, flooding, and changing precipitation patterns, as well as the ensuing consequences, both positive and negative, for the community and the natural environment. Potential consequences included compromised access, degradation of community utilities, damage to buildings, an increased growing season for local farmers, changes in land use, economic impacts and pressures on traditional harvesting.