ENVIRONMENT YUKON






 

Introduction

The Yukon government recognizes that climate change is happening, that human behaviour is a major contributor, and that a coordinated response is needed.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. This panel of scientists states that:

  • global climate change is the most significant threat our environment faces today;
  • the human influence on the climate system is certain and growing;
  • climate change is affecting the Arctic at a pace greater than elsewhere on the planet;
  • impacts of climate change include atmosphere and ocean warming, reduced extents of snow and ice, a higher sea level and an increase in the frequency of heavy precipitation events. (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014).

In Yukon, we are already seeing the effects of climate change across all aspects of the environment. Changes have started to, and are expected to continue to, impact the distribution and abundance of vegetation, fish and wildlife in Yukon, as well as impact Yukon infrastructure, economy and communities.

The Climate Change Action Plan was released in 2009 and later updated in progress reports released in 2012 and 2015. Find out more on the Yukon government's Climate Change Action Plan page.

The effects of climate change are wide-reaching and affect many indicators in this report. Indicators that measure Yukon’s contribution to climate change and the impacts of climate change on Yukon’s environment are identified in other sections by the thermometer symbol.

 

Profile

COP 22

In November 2016, Yukon government participated in the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 22) in Marrakesh, Morocco. The Yukon government recognizes the importance of youth involvement in climate change issues and included Annina Altherr as a Youth Ambassador in Yukon’s COP 22 delegation.

 

 

Reference

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 2014. Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland. Available from: http://ar5-syr.ipcc.ch/.

Indicators related to climate change

 

Air

 

 

 

The Arctic is warming more quickly than other regions, and the warming trend in Yukon is expected to continue.


 

 

In 2014, the annual mean for particulate matter levels in Whitehorse was 6.7 micrograms per cubic metre (well below the ambient air quality standard).


 

 

Yukon’s overall GHG emission levels have been decreasing since 2011.

The transportation sector accounts for the largest share of Yukon’s GHG emissions.


 

Water

 

 

Precipitation amounts change from year to year, but there is an increasing precipitation trend in Yukon.


 

 

Yukon river ice-break up at Dawson City now occurs close to seven days earlier on average since records began in 1896.


 

 

An increase in winter low flows has occurred across the territory over the past 50 years.


 

 

There has been a significant increase in snow water equvalent in the last several decades.


 

 

Arctic sea ice is melting; summer sea ice will likely disappear within decades.


 

Land

 

 

Dramatic fluctuations in area burned occur annually. Fires greater than 200 hectares usually represent a small percentage of all fires but account for most of the overall area burned.



 

 

As of November 2015, an estimated 169 alien plant species have been identified in Yukon. Twenty of these are considered invasive. Other species that have been introduced to Yukon include three mammals, four birds and two fish species.


 

Fish and Wildlife

 

 

The snowshoe hare is a keystone species in the boreal forest; changes in hare population cycles can be an early warning system for ecosystem changes due to climate change.


 

 

Winter ticks have not caused serious problems for Yukon wildlife. However, given their distribution across several Yukon species, they are likely here to stay.


 

 

The spawning escapement target for Canadian-origin Yukon River Chinook salmon was met in 2015.


 

 

Monitoring waterfowl presence and abundance gives a good indication of the ecological health of the area, as waterfowl depend on wetland areas for food, nesting areas and safety.


 

 

Yukon’s healthy ecosystems are a refuge to many species that are considered at risk nationally due to declines outside the territory.