The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment illustrates the role of a regional regime - the cooperation in the Arctic Council - and how it can be used by various actors in the process of producing knowledge about climate change. It also highlights the vertical interplay between regimes at the regional and global levels. In the early work of the Arctic political cooperation, the emerging global climate regime served as a motive to keep the question of a regional climate impact assessment low on the political agenda. It did, however, remain on the scientific agenda and resulted in a three sub-regional integrated assessments. When the need for regional knowledge was identified at the global level, actors connected to global climate science concerns and with Arctic science concerns could use the existing regional regime to provide a politically legitimate platform for a regional scientific assessment. And vice versa: for the Arctic Council and its working groups, the connection to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) can be described as a way of creating a process that would also be legitimate from a global perspective.
With the meeting of two different regimes, it was not clear from the beginning what norms and decision-making procedures should govern the definition of the science-policy boundary. It was thus open for various actors to assert their views and make tactical political choices about the role of regional and global arenas in a climate policy discussion. While the Permanent Participants clearly wanted the Arctic cooperation to play an active policy role vis a vis the global discussions, the United States in particular challenged the legitimacy of the Arctic Council as an arena for climate policy and instead asserted the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) as the appropriate forum. The United States also actively challenged the notion that science should determine policy. The challenges by this strong actor in the international climate science and policy scenes were countered when those with other interests, including the scientific community, Arctic indigenous peoples, and actors within the United States critical of White House climate policy, brought it out into the open via the media. The ACIA illustrates how a regional setting can create quite different science-policy dynamics by bringing in new actors; in this case the indigenous peoples' organizations. It also illustrates that ambiguity in the structure of cooperation, which was produced by different norms and decision-making procedures at the global and regional level, created leeways for actors to assert their preferences.
237 CICERO (Center for International Climate and Environmental Research), "Impacts of a Warming Climate. Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) - Key Findings," Oslo, October 2004 (CD).
238 Interview 61 and observation at the Arctic Council Meeting Reykjavik November 24, 2004.
The close relationship between actors and regimes in the ACIA process can also be compared to the role of knowledge brokers that Litfin highlighted in a study of ozone science and politics. Knowledge brokers are people who serve as "intermediaries between the original researchers, or the producers of knowledge, and the policymakers who consume that knowledge but lack the time and training necessary to absorb the original research."239 The concept emphasizes the potential role of individual actors as major drivers in science-intensive policy making. Several interview accounts point to the ACIA's chair as such a driver in connecting scientific and indigenous concerns.240 This role is also apparent in the formal documentation from the early part of the process. A key question in relation to the potential for future regional assessments thus becomes: what role do such knowledge brokers play in framing the idea of an assessment in a way that has both scientific appeal and appeal to the political stakeholders in the region?
The ACIA process shows also that a knowledge broker does not operate in a vacuum. In the Arctic, the individual initiatives were facilitated by a regional regime with similar norms about the importance of scientific knowledge on the impacts of environmental change on the region. The global climate science regime strengthened the scientific legitimacy of the project while the regional scientific cooperation in the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) served as a bridge to the regional political cooperation in the Arctic Council. It is not likely that such an ambitious international assessment of Arctic climate change would have been conducted without the presence of some regional regime as a platform. Moreover, a wish from ACIA's chair to involve indigenous peoples in the assessment fit well with the norms within the Arctic Council. Thus I argue that in the case of the ACIA, it is difficult to completely separate the importance of the individual actors versus the regimes but it appears as if the global and regional regimes were essential both to get the process launched and for its eventual structure and outcome.
The ACIA process also illustrates some limits of the influence of a knowledge broker as an individual actor. ACIA's chair pointed to the close association between science and policy in ACIA as a unique opportunity to convey the message to policy makers that climate change is real and requires political action: "I think that this assessment, given that it had the obligation to create policy that was built on science, was a massive experiment. It's not been done."241 In the global arena, science and policy are formally separated into two different processes, the IPCC and the UNFCCC, while the both the scientific and policy aspects of the ACIA were carried out under the Arctic Council. Nevertheless, the challenges with bringing them together became vividly apparent when the United States realized that national interests relating to global climate policy were at stake. The policy process was then moved to more policy-exclusive venues and the boundary between science and policy was reasserted, following the norms that were established at the global level. According to one Senior Arctic Official, the process may not have become as contentious if the scientific leadership had not pushed so hard to make the Arctic a showcase of global climate change. The promotion of the ACIA and
239 Litfin, Ozone Discourses, 4.
241 Interview Robert Corell, May 3, 2004.
its potential linkage to global climate change made it inevitable that the dynamics of the global climate negotiations would influence the process.242
What does the ACIA process say about how regimes shape knowledge production? In the ACIA process, the structure of the Arctic Council played a major role in changing the definition of what was considered legitimate knowledge in relation to climate change. Specifically, the political representation of indigenous peoples as Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council provided a venue for introducing traditional knowledge in a way that would have been very difficult to ignore politically. Moreover, it appears that the state cooperation in the Arctic Council, as the political platform, to a large extent kept sub-regional or local political stakeholders from participating in framing the assessment's task. Local business or political experiences were thus not introduced as legitimate sources of knowledge in the assessment. It was not sufficient that previous research on climate impacts in the Arctic had contained a sub-regional focus with involvement of local stakeholders. This could be one explanation as to why it proved difficult for the process to take on the task of assessing socioeconomic impacts. As discussed in more detail in Chapter 6 of this dissertation these impacts, to a large extent, became framed as impacts on the indigenous populations and their traditional livelihoods, which was in line with the interests of the indigenous peoples' organizations with voices in the Arctic Council setting. While there are specific measures in the ACIA to make the assessment process legitimate to the indigenous peoples' organizations, there are very few signs of attempts to make the process legitimate as well to local or sub-regional stakeholders that had no strong platform in the Arctic Council. Other contributing factors for the lack of emphasis on socioeconomic assessment appear to have been that the key organizations in the assessment had weak connections to social science communities that could have been engaged in this task. Moreover, social scientists engaged in Arctic issues communities did not view ACIA as a priority. Thus the actor networks further enhanced the bias against socioeconomic impact assessment.
242 Interview 31.
Table 5.1. Selected events in the assessment of impacts of Arctic climate change.
Was this article helpful?