188.8.131.52 Populations in polar regions
The approximately 10% of the circumpolar population that is indigenous is particularly vulnerable to climate change (ACIA, 2005). Factors contributing to their vulnerability include their close relationship with the land, location of communities in coastal regions, reliance on the local environment for aspects of their diet and economy, and socio-economic and other factors (Berner and Furgal, 2005). The interactions of climate change with underlying social, cultural, economic and political trends are projected to have significant impacts on Arctic residents (Curtis et al., 2005).
Increasing winter temperatures in Arctic regions are projected to reduce excess winter mortality, primarily through a reduction in cardiovascular and respiratory deaths. A reduction in cold-related injuries is projected, assuming that cold protection, including human behavioural factors, does not change (Nayha, 2005). Observations in northern Canadian Aboriginal communities suggest that the number of land-based accidents and injuries associated with unpredictable environmental conditions such as thinning and earlier break-up of sea ice are likely to increase (e.g., Furgal et al., 2002a, b). Diseases transmitted by wildlife and insects are projected to have a longer season in some regions such as the north-western North American Arctic, resulting in increased burdens of disease in key animal species (e.g., marine mammals, birds, fish and shellfish) that can be transmitted to humans (Bradley et al., 2005; Parkinson and Butler, 2005). The traditional diet of circumpolar residents is likely to be negatively affected by changes in animal migrations and distribution, and human access to them, partly because of the impacts of increasing temperatures on snow and ice timing and distribution. Further, increasing temperatures may indirectly influence human exposure to environmental contaminants in some foods (e.g., marine mammal fats). Temperature increases in the North Atlantic are projected to increase rates of mercury methylation in fish and marine mammals, thus increasing human exposure via consumption (Booth and Zeller, 2005).