Executive Summary for December 9th

We review the latest Arctic news, including the changing conservation status of Canada’s barren-ground caribou and the announcement of the winners of the “Nobel of the North.”

Published on Dec. 9, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Award Recognizes Healthy Families, Coding Skills and Sea-Ice Surveillance

The Arctic Inspiration Prize – dubbed by its Canadian founders as a “Nobel for the North” – announced its winners Thursday night in Winnipeg.

This year’s C$1.5 million (US$1.14 million) prize has been split among three teams that will work towards running a safe house for families in northern Quebec, rolling out computer science curriculum in Nunavut and expanding a program that alerts communities when nearby sea ice has become too thin for safe travel.

Qarmaapik House will continue its work trying to keep families together in the community of Kangiqsualujjuaq in Quebec’s northern region of Nunavik. The group formed to help address the high number of children in foster care, CBC reported earlier this year. The organization teaches parenting skills, offers counseling and provides a safe place to stay during family turmoil.

Nunavut’s te(a)ch team will introduce courses in programming, video game development and computer science. These classes are not currently offered in the territory. The third project, SmartICE, uses sensors and satellite data to gather near-real-time information about the condition of sea ice near several communities. It is the second time in three years the award has gone to Trevor Bell, a geographer and field scientist, according to Memorial University.

Canada’s Barren-Ground Caribou Deemed ‘Threatened’

A panel of Canadian scientists have concluded that their country’s barren-ground caribou are on track to becoming endangered.

Canada’s 25 cent coin carries an image of its iconic caribou, but many of these wide-roaming herds have seen steep population drops in recent decades. The fast-warming Arctic environment and increasing interaction with humans are the likely causes behind their dwindling numbers, reported Radio Canada International.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, or COSEWIC, announced this week that it has assessed barren-ground caribou as “threatened,” one step below “endangered.” The committee says it will ask Canada’s environment minister to add barren-ground caribou to the Species At Risk Act listing. That would then require the federal government to develop a recovery strategy for the species.

WWF-Canada also recently raised the alarm over what it describes as the “dire picture” of the future of Canada’s barren-ground caribou. It found that fewer than half of these animals remain, and of the 14 largest herds, 12 have dramatically dwindled in size. In one striking example, caribou on Baffin Island have declined by 98 percent, down to just 5,000 animals from a high of 235,000 in 1991.

Trump Names Pruitt to Head EPA

Hopes that Donald Trump would soften his plans to jettison much of what his predecessor had accomplished in fighting climate change vanished on Thursday.

That’s when the U.S. president-elect named Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who has spent a large amount of effort fighting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as the new head of the organization, reported the New York Times.

President Barack Obama’s efforts to curb U.S. carbon emissions have largely been accomplished by EPA regulations. But, as the New York Times reports, it will be hard for Trump to undo everything set in motion to curb the carbon output of the world’s second-biggest emitter. Solar and wind power may not be priorities of the next president, but market demand for them continues to grow.

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