Scientists Urge Careful Planning for New, Warmer Arctic

(CN) – In a study released Monday, scientists urged groups around the world to consider the big picture and multiple perspectives when it comes to combating the problems plaguing the Arctic.

The report, issued Monday from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, details what researchers believe is the most comprehensive analysis of the varied and complex elements at play in the Arctic, a region that is being continually influenced by climate change and an expanded economic presence.

The research vessel Sikuliaq makes its way through thin sea ice in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s north coast on Nov. 14, 2019. (John Guillote via AP)

In the report, scientists offer a holistic perspective on all of the moving parts and policies that make up the Arctic’s environmental and cultural landscapes, and is being released to the public in the hopes that a more inclusive look will help communities around the world better understand what can be done to solve the Arctic’s problems.

Lassi Heininen, leader of the Arctic Futures Initiative project and research director at the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research at the University of Helsinki, says that as the problems with the Arctic have become more evident over time, broader perspectives and more inclusive strategies like the ones discussed in the report have become more crucial than ever.

“This report delivers the first systematic and holistic analysis and synthesis of all the existing policies and strategies of the Arctic states and other relevant stakeholders, using quantitative and qualitative methods,” Heininen said with the release of the study.

He added, “As the Arctic is facing severe challenges, and the global Arctic has worldwide implications which affect the rest of the globe, it is important to include existing policies and strategies of non-Arctic states and Indigenous peoples organizations to the analysis, and based on that recognize new trends.”

While the report examined 56 different global policies to understand the trends and components that need to be considered when understanding the Arctic’s challenges, such as the realities of economics and the importance of international climate initiatives, one of the most significant is the considerations of local indigenous people and groups.

Researchers suggest that because the Arctic is home to dozens of native groups and claimed by eight different states, it is vital that the perspectives and needs of those that call the land their home be meaningfully considered.

Researchers believe as well that all groups on the global stage, including those native to the Arctic, need to be aware of the perceptions and viewpoints that dominate how the world understands the complexities of the region.

“Against a background of significant multidimensional change, it is important, even crucial, for the Arctic states, indigenous peoples organizations, and non-Arctic states to know what kind of perceptions, visions, and narratives there are concerning the region: this will give them a better understanding of processes taking place in, and impacting, the Arctic now and in future,” the report states.

The report stresses that the changes being experienced are not likely to abate any time soon. With rising sea levels and global temperatures, unprecedented ice loss in critical habitats and increased attention from global tourism and energy markets, researchers say it is clear the Arctic is undergoing a transformational period that will have long-lasting consequences.

If the world is to adapt to these new changes, researchers are hopeful that policymakers and global advocates will use this report and the expansive picture it paints to guide them towards meaningful solutions and practical ideas.

Petteri Vuorimäki, Ambassador for Arctic and Antarctic Affairs for Finland, says in a preface to the report that it has become clear that the Arctic is changing fast – and it is time that the world learns to change with it.

“In recent years the world has been awakening to the realities of the Arctic region. The Arctic is facing challenges which, unless properly mitigated, will have an impact on the entire globe,” Vuorimäki said. “The realities in the Arctic are changing, and changing fast. Governments and other actors must keep up with this pace.”

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