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How to build resilience in the Arctic

At a key Arctic Council meeting this week, SEI presented blueprints to guide policy on resilience in the region.

Tom Gill / Published on 9 May 2017

The Arctic Council Showcase in Fairbanks, Alaska, celebrated the close of the two-year U.S. Chairmanship of the Council by highlighting achievements during the period. Marcus Carson, SEI Senior Research Fellow, presented a synthesis of results from the report, published in November last year, with a focus on measures and approaches that the region’s policymakers and people can take to build resilience in the face of rapid environmental and social change.

Village of Kulusuk.
Village of Kulusuk. Ville Miettinen via Flickr

Carson said, “Human activities and climate change are reshaping the Arctic in ways that interact, making the speed and type of change difficult to predict and extremely worrisome – in part because of the ways they can disrupt people’s livelihoods in the north, and in part because they influence conditions elsewhere. Since it is human activity that is driving Arctic change, we can also take actions to respond and strengthen the resilience of the people in the region, and of the region itself, and we see many good examples to build on.”

Key recommendations in the report include:

  • Improving how data on human/ecological interactions is collected and assessed at the local level (known as community based monitoring, or CBS), and do this in a more integrated way, using a ‘systems’ approach. One such successful project that could be expanded is the Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer Network.
  • Setting up projects locally and at the regional and national level that integrate different kinds of knowledge and academic disciplines, and prioritize projects that engage with communities. The Scenarios project under the North Slope Science Initiative in Alaska illustrates this approach in practice.
  • Closely involving local communities in work to solve environmental problems, using local and Indigenous Knowledge and interdiscipinary science as tools. The Arctic Waterways Safety Committee is a good example of such an approach.

The Arctic Resilience Report was a multi-year research effort involving 11 organizations and six universities, and is the first comprehensive study of ecosystems and societies in the region.

The Report identified 19 major environmental tipping points that are at risk of being triggered by processes linked to climate change, including higher releases of methane, and collapse of key Arctic fisheries.

Joel Clement, co-chair of the Arctic Resilience Report project, said  “This groundbreaking report is an unprecedented effort to gain insight from what is happening on the ground. The findings are foundational to a more informed, coordinated response to building resilience across the region.”

Read the synthesis for policy-makers (PDF: 6.7MB)

Read the Arctic Resilience Report (PDF: 15.5MB)

View our photostory on the Arctic Resilience Report

SEI 2016 news Intotheblue

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Marcus Carson
Marcus Carson

Senior Research Fellow

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