The Arctic is one of the planet’s command centers. The events unfolding in this region influence global temperature and sea level, ocean currents, weather patterns, and numerous other processes that impact every continent. The Arctic is changing quickly. The impact of climate change is more apparent in the Arctic than in any other place.
A new book published by the BBVA Foundation—Whither the Arctic Ocean?—presents the multidisciplinary vision of 30 leading experts on the Arctic meltdown and its global repercussions. Bottom line: The new Arctic will have less ice, different species, and an increased human presence. These are changes that go beyond the strictly environmental with potential to transform the world both economically and geopolitically.
Dr. Francis Wiese, Stantec’s National Lead for Marine Science based in Anchorage, Alaska, wrote the book’s concluding chapter, providing a vision of a sustainable world, and Arctic, that could be our future.
“The changes happening in the Arctic do not stay in the Arctic but are connected in multiple ways to global climate, especially in the Northern Hemisphere”, Wiese said. “Ultimately, the challenge of conserving the Arctic is a great experiment in global cooperation. There are solutions, but the Arctic’s future and sustainability will depend on our capacity to work together to solve problems which affect us all.”
Highlights from the book, which is available as a free download from the BBVA Foundation, include:
- A summary the current state of scientific knowledge on the rapidly warming Arctic and its potential impact in terms of increased sea levels and extreme climate events, including waves of heat and cold, hurricanes, rainstorms, and flooding.
- An in-depth look at the economic and geopolitical implications of the Arctic thaw, which is opening new sea routes providing access to sought-after resources for sectors like mining, fisheries, freight transport, and tourism.
- Combined views of oceanographers, ecologists, and glaciologists on global warming in the Arctic with analyses of the region’s socio-economic transformation in the charge of political scientists, anthropologists, managers, and conservationists.
- The fate of the Arctic is manifestly critical for the future of humankind and stands as a key global challenge that can only be successfully addressed through a multidisciplinary approach like the one set out here.
The book’s starting point is “the need for cooperation between traditionally separate fields of natural, social and political science, social anthropology and management perspectives,” explains Paul Wassmann, a professor at UIT The Arctic University of Norway (Tromsø), the book’s editor and coordinator of the project. “The Arctic is not a very large ocean, but it has a very important influence. It could, for instance, be behind a snowstorm of the kind recently experienced in Madrid, as well as all the variability of climate extremes we are currently exposed to, whose determining factor is the extent of the ice cover in the Arctic.”
The authors of Whither the Arctic Ocean? show that the Arctic is not only a bellwether of global climate policies but the fate of the Arctic is of critical importance for humanity’s future, as a key global challenge that can only be successfully addressed though the multidisciplinary approach proposed in its pages.
The authors apply the latest scientific knowledge to the study of a region that is particularly vulnerable to climate change and is at the same time a mythical land of human exploration, the habitat of fragile ecosystems, home to Indigenous Peoples, and a battleground for the oil, mineral, and other resources that the thaw has left accessible. Oceanographers, ecologists, climatologists, and glaciologists describe the complex and fragile nature of the Arctic ecosystem, while anthropologists, international relations experts, and conservationists examine the region’s socio-economic transformation and its impact on local cultures, without neglecting the ethical dimension of this challenge.
Aside from Wiese, the book’s 30 authors include several others with Alaska ties, including former Lieutenant Governor Frances Ulmer; Eduard Zdor from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF); Brendan Kelley, professor at the International Arctic Research Center at UAF and Executive Director of the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH); and Henry Huntington, Arctic Science Director at Ocean Conservancy. Other authors include those from Norway, Russia, and Canada.
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