Climate change is the biggest challenge of our generation and possibly even our species. The north is being transformed at a much higher rate than the rest of Canada and the impacts are already apparent. Conserving our remaining wilderness helps to keep carbon out of the atmosphere and provides a safe haven for the plants and animals under pressure from a warming planet.
You do not need to convince Yukoners of the reality of climate change. Coastal erosion, melting permafrost and sea ice, and changes in vegetation and wildlife populations, not to mention a four-degree increase in average winter temperatures, are among the changes being observed.
While these changes continue to occur and accelerate, we know that some species will be unable to adapt, while others might expand their range and prosper, grabbing habitat left vacant by others. Overall, the Yukon is at risk of losing some of its natural biodiversity.
Conservation is one of the most important tools for combatting climate change because it ensures the wilderness can store carbon rather than becoming sources of carbon through land use change, development, and resource extraction. The Boreal Forest alone stores 186 billion tonnes of carbon.
Parks and protected areas are also important for our resilience against climate change because they can buffer the worst effects. Protected areas are managed to preserve fully functioning ecosystems and the biodiversity within them. As climate change threatens to destabilize the environment, undisturbed natural landscapes are the best chance for wildlife to survive, and they are one of the best defences to reduce our own vulnerability to extreme changes.
As a nationwide environmental organization, CPAWS is deeply involved in efforts to reduce Canada’s carbon footprint as well as adapt to current and future changes. Through a campaign called Nature for Climate Change, we are advocating for natural, ecosystem based solutions to climate change. This means ensuring that ecological integrity is the cornerstone of our parks, and that Canada looks to expand its protected areas as one of the most effective solutions to climate change.
For CPAWS Yukon, our flagship Protect the Peel campaign has significant climate change implications. One of the main environmental benefits of conserving 80% of this land is that it could provide a refuge for animals under pressure from climate change and migrating to areas where the conditions and habitat are more suitable. As the northern anchor of the south-north Yellowstone-to-Yukon conservation corridor, the Peel is essential for providing wildlife the space they need to adapt.
CPAWS has been an active participant in Yukon’s ongoing discussions about how to meet our future energy needs and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. While 97% of the territory’s electricity comes from renewable hydroelectric power, the Yukon’s heating and transportation activities come with a high carbon footprint. In consultations such as Yukon Energy’s Resource Planning for 2035 and the Next Generation Hydro project, CPAWS has been an advocate for clean and sustainable options such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and low-impact hydro.
Fracking and oil and gas exploration in the Yukon have also been a point of debate in the last few years. CPAWS Yukon has taken a strong stand against fracking due to the proven harm to land, water and wildlife in other regions of the country. The long-term health of our pristine environment and water are too important to jeopardize for uncertain economic benefits and we believe the Yukon should remain frack free forever. We also believe that our territory and the entire country must be looking to scale up renewable energy sources rather than developing oil and gas resources in the Yukon and further entrenching our dependence on fossil fuels.
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