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A bridge on Baffin Island shows damage after being slammed by torrential rains and winds, triggering an overflow of the nearby Duval River. Among the emergency measures later required was the dumping of raw sewage into a pristine fjord.

Claus Vogel

The National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy says the North "is on the front line of climate change." In a report, to be released today, the roundtable predicts effects on infrastructure in the Arctic and other northern areas, including:

SNOW

  • Global warming will increase air moisture levels, which will raise the amount of precipitation in the north and lead to far greater snow and ice falls. The problem: most homes, radio towers, and other infrastructure have been designed and built for low snowfall conditions and will have to be reinforced.

EROSION

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  • The loss of sea ice is causing greater wave action, which is washing away coastlines. Add intensified storm surges to the mix and whole communities may have to be relocated in the future.

ICE ROADS

  • Moving goods over ice roads in the winter has been the lifeblood of many northern mines and communities. With increased warming, , northern regions may have to spend a lot of money to build all-weather roads, and companies may be forced to move freight by helicopter.

FIRE

  • Below the tree line, a warmer world will mean a problem common in southern regions will spread north: wildfires. The report says this will become "a major concern" for infrastructure and for remote microwave towers.

MELTING PERMAFROST

  • The integrity of any structure in the north built on permafrost will be threatened by global warming. The list is long, including roads, airport runways, communications towers, pipelines, and underground fuel storage tanks.


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About the Author
Investment Reporter

Martin Mittelstaedt has had a varied reporting career at the Globe and Mail, covering politics, the environment and business. He opened up the Globe's New York bureau for the Report on Business, and has also been on the banking and capital markets beats. He's written extensively on investing themes. More

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