Ambitiously big “toolbox” for the entire Arctic coming soon

30.03.16

An extensive team of some 100 researchers is putting the final touches on three large reports focusing on the adaptations that the Arctic will have to make in response to climate change and social developments. In addition to summarizing existing knowledge in many fields of research and economic sectors, ranging from fisheries to education, the reports provide input on how to tackle the many challenges in today's rapidly changing Arctic.

Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic (AACA) is the title of this ambitious project, which covers three regions: the Barents; the Bering/Chukchi/Beaufort region; and an area that encompasses Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait. Researchers in the respective regions are working parallel to describe these enormous areas.

The reports will serve as tools for decision-makers, administrators and stakeholders within diverse sectors. Socio-economists, for example, will gain an overview of current and possible future trends in the areas of economics, demography, education and culture. What kinds of drivers can be expected that will have an impact on developments in the area? How can these drivers impact each other, what kinds of changes can be anticipated and, last but not least, what can be done to achieve the maximum benefit from these developments?

Commissioned by the Arctic Council
The AACA reports were commissioned by the Arctic Council and will be dealt with at a ministerial level in 2017. The plan is for the reports to be completed by autumn 2016.

The reports are to be written by researchers and all chapters in the reports will be subjected to scientific quality assurance. But not all of the facts in the reports are scientifically documented. For instance, researchers are receiving input from the sectors involved, which in Greenland include Royal Greenland, other representatives of the fisheries sector, the mining industry, and the educational sector. The last AACA workshop for stakeholders was held as recently as February 2016 in Nuuk. Participants had an opportunity to discuss the preliminary Baffin Bay/Davis Strait area report, which is being compiled by an interdisciplinary team of Greenlandic, Danish and Canadian researchers. The project is jointly managed by the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Aarhus University (AU, DCE) and Canada's ArcticNet. Contributors to the report include researchers from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Aarhus University, Ilisimatusarfik (the University of Greenland), Aalborg University, the Technical University of Denmark, the University of Copenhagen, the Danish Meteorological Institute and a number of Canadian universities.

Why another major project?

Researchers are publishing a steady stream of big status reports on the Arctic: on the climate, seawater pollution, flora, fauna, the melting ice cap, oil and gas exploration, changes in permafrost, reductions in sea ice, etc.  One of the most recent is the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Arctic Biodiversity Assessment report from 2014, which provides an exhaustive description of the current state of Arctic biodiversity. Furthermore, commissions working for the Government of Greenland have compiled a range of reports on social issues in recent years. Recommendations have been made by the Greenland-Danish Self-Government Commission, the Transport Commission, the Tax and Welfare Commission along with countless status reports on the oil and minerals that Greenland has at its disposal and many other reports that are used as tools by decision-makers.

Meanwhile, in 2014 the Arctic Council decided to integrate the many different sources of information about the Arctic and identify the interactions of multiple key drivers for change in the Arctic. This led to the launching of pilot projects in three regions, with interdisciplinary research (including natural sciences, social sciences, etc.) that is tailored to local needs and fosters a dialogue that ensures the involvement of local players. The goal of the AACA reports is “to enable more informed, timely and responsive policy-making and decision-making related to adaptation actions in a rapidly changing Arctic.”

The Arctic Council hopes that the AACA reports will provide decision-makers in the three regions with practical tools for developing new policies, thereby paving the way for a conscious adaptation to future developments.

A wealth of information
The Baffin Bay/Davis Strait area report is anticipated to contain approx. 400 pages and 12 chapters that deal with our lives all along the west coast of Greenland, from the northernmost settlement of Siorapaluk all the way to Cape Farewell, plus the north-eastern part of the Nunavut region in Canada.

In the section on the shipping situation, for example, readers can find out what can be expected when the ice in the Northwest Passage has melted sufficiently to allow commercial navigation in the area. What are the latest challenges generated by cruise ship tourism in remote areas, and what developments can we expect to see on this front?

Written in a clear and concise manner, the reports present a wealth of information gathered from papers, articles, recommendations and the like. They are an important source of the latest knowledge and indicate options that should be taken into consideration as we in Greenland face the many challenges and opportunities of the present and the future. The reports will be published after the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in the spring of 2017.

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The coloured zones on this map show the AACA areas that are the subject of reports currently under compilation. The three scientific reports will be published in the spring of 2017. They provide broad knowledge on conditions in the Arctic, including natural science and social science perspectives.

Politicians now receive assistance that allows them to take more informed decisions on developments in today's changing Arctic. Photo: Fernando Ugarte, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.

The rapidly changing Arctic now gives politicians an opportunity to harness key drivers for the benefit of society. Photo: Carsten Egevang, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.