In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

The Arctic Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources (SCEENR)

Posted 5/5/2009 by Senator Grant Mitchell


Senate Committees are renowned for their excellent, thoughtful reports. The process always involves calling witnesses and sometimes involves travel.

Last spring, SCEENR travelled to the Northwest Territories to study the effects of development pressures and climate change. The trip took us as for North as Tuktoyaktuk. We stayed and met people in Yellowknife, Norman Wells, and Inuvik.

Meeting in Norman Wells, NWT

Meeting with community leaders in Norman Wells, NWT

It was clear that there are huge and very worrisome impacts of climate change on the environment and the people of the North. The permafrost is melting. This creates huge construction challenges. Houses are sinking into the mulch created when the permafrost melts. Ice roads, critical for delivering supplies to remote settlements and keeping exorbitant prices down, are melting much sooner and are started later. The rising sea level is threatening coastal settlements like Tuktoyaktuk.

 The Arcric water is open sooner and longer. Sovereignty issues are growing as a result.

Wildlife and flora are being profoundly affected. One caribou herd has dwindled from 160,000 to 40,000 in the last 5 years. Polar bears are appearing where they never have before and are disoriented. Deer, insects and other species are migrating north.

There is no debate in the North about the severity of this problem and they are taking steps to mitigate their emissions out of desperation. Of course, they emit so little in comparison to the rest of the world, that their efforts should really be seen as leadership for the rest of us.

SCEENR is very sympathetic to the plight of the people of the North.

 At the end of each major study, Senate Committees publish a report. Much effort is made by members to create a consensus report.

The report was delayed because Parliament was prorogued in the fall and committees are officially disbanded until the next Parliament sits and reestablishes them. So, we only got restarted a few weeks ago.

This report was written in an easily readable form. My experience is that many reports are so technical and dry that they discourage people from reading them. We actually hired a special writer with communications experience and who has written many great reports for the Senate National Security and Defence Committee.

Our report will be released soon – I hope you will take a look at it!

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