Annika Nilsson, a researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute, said given that ice melt in the Arctic has happened faster than even scientists expected, communities in the region need adaptation strategies that can respond to fast-moving environmental changes.
"It will have to be structured in a way that we can expand our capacity to meet different types of challenges, even challenges that we don't really know yet what they are," she said.
In four case studies -- reindeer herding in Finnmark, commercial shipping through the Bering Strait, transformations in wildlife subsistence systems in the southwest Yukon and food security -- the authors look in depth at the challenges that change in the Arctic will bring and what various communities may need to do to adapt to a new, warmer world.
In the case of the Bering Strait, which connects the north Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea to the Arctic Ocean, changing patterns of sea ice cover have altered the currents and affected subsistence communities' ability to hunt. Meanwhile, ship traffic through the straits is expected to rise sharply as the Arctic warms. And, another consequence, a growing number of whales are getting killed by ships -- a problem that the authors noted could have food security implications as well as political ones.
"Policy analysts are seeking to ascertain the potential effects of Arctic shipping in anticipation of an ice-free North, and are doing so with limited understanding of impacts on local communities, market demands, technology, and rates of change," the report says.
Cornell added, "We tend to think that people in the north look after the north and people in the south look after the south. We're starting to see a much more interconnected world."
China, South Korea and other nations newly granted observer status at the council are proof of that, she and others noted. Finnish Environment Minister Ville Niinistö, in Washington, D.C., earlier this week, called it "very positive that interest in the Arctic region has increased."
At the same time, Niinistö said: "We also know why the interest is there. The role of the Arctic is changing, and not just for the good. We have to find better environmental practices and safeguards before the use of the Arctic region increases."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500