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Water Today Title July 7, 2022

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Update 2017/5/1


By Cori Marshall

In the coming decades, the Arctic will see visible changes, they will happen on a faster timeline than first predicted. The changes are brought on in part by the drivers of climate change, though there are socio-economic factors as well. The scope of the impacts of the coming climate change in the Arctic will depend on how the people adapt to these new realities, and the answers may lie in the local culture and traditions.

The Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic (AACA) reports focus on three pilot regions the Barents Area, the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort (BCB) Region, and the Baffin Bay-Davis Strait Region (BBDS). The report qualifies the areas as "complex systems undergoing rapid environmental and societal change." This is further complicated by the "dynamics of changing economies, demographics and social structures."

The AACA is breaking new ground, Mikael Lemay, of ArcticNet, said that "it represents a real step forward, in terms of the way we are conducting assessments, engaging with regions and communities to be sure that the issues that are addressed really reflect their needs."

For example, the reports point to the integration of traditional and scientific knowledge in the Barents region, and in the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort there is reliance on the mixed economy that is in place. Either way, researchers are looking to the different regions’ indigenous communities to model adaptation responses. James Gamble, of the Aleut International Association, said: "this is an example of something that AMAP does really well, that is bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to work on a common issue."

A complete understanding of what the inhabitants of the Arctic face in terms of challenges is difficult without an understanding of local knowledge. Gamble added that "recognition of things like the economy, culture, globalization, and other pressures that are exerted from the outside," must be considered when developing adaptation strategies.

Anders Mosbech, Aarhus University, highlighted that "the regions are very different, the Baffin Bay-Davis Strait area is huge, though there are only 75 thousand people there." The relatively small population survives on "very diverse lifestyles, some live a very traditional life (hunting, fishing) while others live off new industrial developments," Mosbech added. There is an importance to having everybody’s voice is heard and messages "evaluated together, so there is management for different kinds of fisheries," Mosbech said.

Marianne Kroglund, of the Norwegian Environmental Agency, who studied the Barents region said that "there is a lot of capacity to adapt." The region already has processes in place to address marine management and adaptive ecosystems management. Kroglund added that there are plans for "service centres that will provide information to the local level."

The Barents is not a perfectly adaptable region, there are still areas of concern. Kroglund said "I do believe that [it is a] society that has resources and resilience, though [there are] vulnerable parts of the society in the sectors that are [closely] linked to nature. "What we see in the Barents is a lot of conflicting interests in the years to come," Kroglund explained. Kroglund suggested that spaces be created to discuss the conflicting interests.

In the Baffin Bay-Davis Strait region, climate change may present positive opportunities. For example, there may be "new fisheries, increasing abundance of sea mammals, improved access to mineral resources, [and] increased tourism.” Even regional interconnectivity offers the promise of economic growth.

It is the social challenges, as well as environmental impacts, that offset the potentially positive aspects of change. Many communities "face high rates of poverty.” There are also cases of livelihood insecurity, this is "where changes in global markets or policy developments," have major impacts in the Arctic.

Just as we have seen with chemical pollution in the Arctic, some adaptation challenges originate from within the region though some are beyond the local population's control.

The regions may have diverse demographic makeups, different population bases, though they share some characteristics in common. They all have a mixture of cash and subsistence economies and they are all facing rapid environmental change that threatens those fragile lifestyles. The AACA have taken giant steps in including the indigenous communities’ stakeholders in the plans to develop adaptive measures to the change the North will see.

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