Agency and actor networks in focus

While regimes and primary institutions can be important concepts for highlighting structures, the history and process of the ACIA also illustrate that actors and structures interact. For example, the ACIA policy process certainly could not be understood without paying attention to the roles of various state actors, including how some Nordic countries wanted to use the Arctic regime for pushing certain climate policies and how the United States in particular challenged this. I believe this clash may not only be relevant to climate policy but also to how knowledge production about Arctic climate change will develop, especially as it relates to policy-relevant questions of mitigation and adaptation. This study also highlights the relation between regimes and actors other than states. As an example, a formal regime can play a key role in making individual knowledge brokers successful by providing the platform from which they can act and gain easier access to policy makers. Another example is that a regime can change or become stabilized based on what different actors do. The actions of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) both at the beginning and during the scientific assessment appears to have been important in enhancing the norm to include indigenous knowledge, and this norm in turn provided the ICC with a role in the policy process that it may not have had without the Arctic Council's decision-making procedures.

Based on actor-network theory, it is relevant to reflect on the relationships between non-human actors (e.g. technologies), social actors, and structures of international society, be they primary institutions or issue-specific regimes. Latour has shown that the primary institution of colonialism was important in creating a distinction between local knowledge and science, which gave the latter the authority to speak for nature with universalist claims.25 In the case of climate science, specific cooperative arrangements, such as the WMO, have supported data management and climate modeling and thereby served as what Latour calls center of calculation. It is inside such centers that the physical artefacts that mirror nature, such as maps and data logs, are accumulated and are used by scientists "to escalate the proof rate." Thereby "the tiny number of scientists is more than balanced by the large number of resources they are able to muster."26 The transformation of the scientific calculations and conclusions in IPCC's assessment into policy relevant language and into the summaries for policy makers is similarly powered by the structures of the IPCC and its linkages to the UNFCCC. The structure of international cooperation in the climate arena has an important role in enhancing the reach and thus the power of observations and work of individual scientists. It is also these formal cooperations that make aspects of the biogeophysical environment and technologies powerful actants outside their local contexts. They do so by connecting various local actor networks and by linking them directly to political decision making.

Other areas of Arctic science have not had the same strong support from a global climate regime. This could be an important explanation on why knowledge gathered by those scientists has not enjoyed an equally strong influence in the global climate debate including the framing of climate change as one of many interacting factors that comes forth in many studies that are based on a preference for a local spatial scale. It is too

25 Latour, Science in Action, 215 ff.

26 Latour, Science in Action, 232.

early to assess what role these additional perspectives in the ACIA will play for how Arctic climate change will be framed in the future. It will, for example, be very interesting to see what role indigenous observations of Arctic climate change will play in five or ten years. Will the Arctic Council become a center of calculation for indigenous communities and individuals across the Arctic by virtue of ACIA's attempt to systematize local community observations of weather variability and climate change? Just the fact that some of these observations are now gathered in written form that can be cited allows the observations to act at a much greater distance than within a single community.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment