A meeting of regional and global science arenas

Climate science relies heavily on data from the present and past, preferably with as good geographical coverage as possible. In the Arctic, this has always been a challenge. Not only have distances in sparsely populated areas and difficult weather conditions made it expensive and hard to collect data, but the strategic military location and the political division of the region into two parts during the Cold War kept large parts of the Arctic closed for international data collection. When political relations between East and West began to thaw in the 1980s, new opportunities arose for climate science.

One of the early cooperative efforts in this emerging political setting was the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), which was created in 1990 to facilitate circumpolar research cooperation. One driving force was to meet the needs of climate science for circumpolar climate data.5 Such data are important for understanding how the Arctic climate system functions, including its role in the global climate system, and thus serve as a base for improving climate models. IASC started several climate-related groups and created a "Scientific Plan for a Regional Research Programme in the Arctic on Global Change."6 This included a joint effort in glaciology, studies of climate feedbacks in the terrestrial ecosystem, and human dimensions in global change. Ultraviolet radiation was also introduced as a topic for interdisciplinary collaboration.7 These issues

5 Written personal communication with Odd Rogne March 31, 2004, and interview April 14, 2004.

6 Scientific Plan for A Regional Research Programme in the Arctic on Global Change. Proceedings of a Workshop at Reykjavik, Iceland 22-25 April 1992. IASC and National Academy Press, Washington D.C. 1994.

7 IASC, Effects of Increased Ultraviolet Radiation in the Arctic (Oslo: IASC, 1995); Archer and Scrivener, "International Co-operation in the Arctic Environment," 603.

received continued attention under the theme of "The Impact of Global Changes on the Arctic Region and its People."8

IASC also identified climate impact studies as a priority. At this point in time, the early 1990s, the focus of the IPCC was still on the global climate system and there were no regional climate models by which researchers could create regionally relevant scenarios. There had already been a regional integrated assessment of climate impact on the Mackenzie Basin covering the entire watershed of the Mackenzie River, conducted as a research project from 1989 to 1997. IASC choose a similar approach of taking smaller regions as a starting point and actively involving local stakeholders.9 According to IASC's executive secretary, there was a wish "to create meaningful results for people living in the region."10

IASC chose to work with two international regions - the Barents Sea and the Bering Sea. The specific criteria for choosing them included "their importance as economic zones and weather generators; their sensitivity to climate; and the presence of local native populations, regional scientific expertise, research gaps to be addressed and availability of potential funding to address these issues."11 Another common feature was that both regions were politically and militarily sensitive areas between two superpowers, and there had been very little scientific cooperation during the Cold War.12 This made them suitable objects for study to an organization that was created to overcome political boundaries as the frozen East-West political relations were thawing.

The Bering Sea Impact Study (BESIS) held a number of workshops with the purpose of "getting scientists and stakeholders, the people affected by the change together."13 The project resulted in several reports and the work in BESIS later became integrated into and a starting point for the Alaskan section of the US National Climate Impact Assessment. According to IASC's executive secretary, the Barents Sea Impact Study (BASIS) had problems with lack of basic information, particularly in relation to Russia. It, therefore, had to become more of a research project before any assessment could be made. The BASIS project later developed into the EU funded research project Balance (2002-2005), aimed at assessing the vulnerabilities of the Barents Sea system to climate change based on a common modeling framework for major environmental and societal components.14

8 Archer and Scrivener, "International Co-operation in the Arctic Environment," 605.

9 Stewart Cohen, "Participation in Integrated Assessment," Tiempo no. 34 (1999); Stewart J. Cohen, "What If and So What in Northwest Canada: Could Climate Change Make a Difference to the Future of the Mackenzie Basin," Arctic 50, (1999): 293; NCE Knowledge Site, "Mackenzie Basin Impact Study," http://yukon.taiga.net/knowledge/resources/mbis/index_printable.html (Accessed 6 Dec. 2006).

10 Interview Odd Rogne April 14, 2004.

11 BESIS Project Office, The Impacts of Global Climate Change in the Bering Sea Region. An Assessment Conducted by the International Arctic Science Committee Under Its Bering Sea Impact Study. Results of a Workshop, Girdwood, Alaska 18-21 September 1996 (Fairbanks: BESIS Project Office, 1996), 7.

12 BESIS Project Office, The Impacts of Global Climate Change in the Bering Sea Region, 5.

13 Foreword in Implications of Global Change in Alaska and the Bering Sea region. Proceeding of a Workshop. University of Alaska, Fairbanks. June 1997.

14 Balance, "Global Change Vulnerabilities in the Arctic Region: Linking Arctic Natural Resources, Climate Change and Economies" http://balance1.uni-muenster.de/ (Accessed 13 Apr. 2007).

While BESIS and BASIS were running, IASC's Executive Committee started a discussion on using assessments as a tool for identifying priorities among the different proposals for projects they received. By 1998, IASC had decided to focus on climate change. They had also observed that two Arctic Council working groups had been tasked to undertake such an assessment. In addition, IASC prepared a paper on the principles of conducting assessments, drawing on experiences from global assessments of ozone depletion and climate change. The author was Bert Bolin, founding chair of the IPCC, who at the time was vice chair in IASC's Executive Committee. The structure of the IPCC is clearly visible in his proposal, with a division of scientific and policy-oriented products but including an arena in which both policy makers and scientists can take part. Specifically, he suggested a bulk report written for the scientific community where individual scientists take responsibility for the content and without recommendations for political action. Second, there should be a summary for policymakers written for laymen, and in particular for politicians, where "the selection of what to include should preferably be done in co-operation with those who have proposed the analysis." The purpose, according to the discussion paper, was to involve the non-scientific community, and in particular politicians, in transforming policy into action.15

Another person active in IASC at this time was Robert W. Corell, at the time US representative and chair of IASC's Regional Board. Corell and Bolin had a mutual interest in what the IPCC had identified as need to complement the global focus with more regional studies. Corell's recollection of events is as follows:

We asked ourselves a simple question: If you were to try to downscale to something more local, where would you do it? And we ended up in the Arctic. We actually looked at other places where you could do it. You could argue doing this in the monsoon region in the Indian Ocean. You could do it in the Amazonas. There are these hot spots in the climate system. But what made the Arctic attractive was that there was a sufficient amount of research that we knew that the [climate change] signals were very strong. We suspected they were strong ... We also saw that there was some machinery in place to actually do it. We had IASC, all circumpolar. We knew we had an Arctic Council.16

IASC was receptive to the idea and Corell was asked to deliver a draft outline. That paper and Bolin's principles for conducting scientific assessments were on the table at the same Executive Committee meeting in February 1999.

Several authors have identified Bolin as one of the key people in the development of global climate science arenas, in particular the IPCC.17 The early origin of the ACIA illustrates the role of such individual actors in connecting the global and regional networks and in transmitting norms from the global arena to the Arctic science regime. Corell had mostly been active in the United States. Nevertheless, they were both part of

15 Some principles for conducting Scientific Assessments by IASC (A sketch by Bert Bolin). Discussion paper prepared for IASC's Executive Committee January 28, 1999.

16 Interview Robert Corell, March 24, 2004

17 E.g. Agrawala, "Structural and Process History of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change."; Skodvin, Structure and Agent in the Scientific Diplomacy of Climate Change. An Empirical Case Study of the Science Policy Interaction in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

a global climate science network that the previous chapter of this dissertation has identified as important in framing climate change in policy relevant terms and as a global issue.

Arctic Council: AMAP and CAFF

Political cooperation in the Arctic took shape at about the same time IASC was formed in the early 1990s (see Chapter 4 for details). In 1991, it was formalized by the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), which focused the shared concern about "the threats to the Arctic environment and the impact of pollution on the fragile Arctic ecosystem."18

The operational activities of the AEPS were organized by working groups, of which the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) has the strongest organizational backing. Initial discussions about its mandate were already held in 1990 and by 1993 AMAP's task had been further defined.19 Although climate change and the ozone layer/UV radiation are mentioned as concerns in the political documents, for example that "increased temperatures and precipitation may result in dramatic ecological and socio-economic effects," it is also clear that these issues were not a major priority within the AEPS.20 The rationale for this lack of emphasis was the existing global cooperation in these areas. Therefore, AMAP's task was defined not as a mandate to take inititives on its own but rather to ensure that Arctic concerns were taken into account in the global processes and that monitoring needs were coordinated:

Noting the existing global cooperation on climate change and stratospheric ozone programs, the Ministers requested AMAP to regularly review the integrated results of these programs with a view to identifying gaps in the scope of the monitoring and research under these fora and with a view to ensuring that specific issues related to the Arctic region are placed on the agenda of the appropriate international bodies. The Ministers also requested AMAP to coordinate their monitoring programs with those planned by other programs in order to maximize data collection in logistically difficult areas and to integrate results as well as to contribute to the assessment of potential synergistic effects of multiple stresses on the Arctic and its inhabitants.21

Another early working group within the AEPS was the Working Group for Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF). In a report from 1993, the issues of climate change and ozone depletion/UV are not directly visible although they may have been implied in phrases such as "the importance of CAFF's identification of the full spectrum of human-caused threats to Arctic species and habitats." However, CAFF's own meet

18 Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS). Rovaniemi Declaration, 1991.

19 Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme- Minutes from the expert meeting in Oslo 12-16 Nov 1990; The Monitoring Programme for Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, AMAP. AMAP Report 93:3; See also Young, Creating Regimes: Arctic Accords and International Governance.

20 Arctic Environment. Second Ministerial Conference, Nuuk, Greenland, September 1993; See also section 4.4 of this dissertation.

21 Arctic Environment. Second Ministerial Conference, Nuuk, Greenland, September 1993.

ing reports from 1994 show that climate change was an identified concern and discussed in connection with the development of tools for monitoring biodiversity.22

Even if the AEPS deferred the main responsibility for assessing climate change and ozone depletion to global regimes, both CAFF and AMAP kept them on their agendas. For example AMAP was tasked to do an initial assessment, which was delivered in 1997/98 as part of a major assessment of Arctic pollution issues.23 The politically negotiated "Executive Summary" of the assessments discusses climate change and ozone/UV both as concerns in their own right and in relation to the primary mandate of AMAP - pollution issues. A key example is the identified knowledge gap concerning the combined effects of climate change and contaminant pathways.24 This was later addressed in an assessment of the impact of climate change on transport and effects of contaminants.25

Also at CAFF, climate change was discussed in relation to its primary mandate -conservation of Arctic flora and fauna. In its 2001 report Arctic Flora and Fauna, both climate change and ozone depletion are mentioned as a diffuse threat and various passages address the potential impacts of climate change on different ecosystems. The report concludes that monitoring the impacts of climate change and ultraviolet radiation is vital, as is further research to understand the dynamics of the systems that will be af-fected.26

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment