Global perspectives

A framing that comes to the fore in both the qualitative and quantitative text analysis is that the Arctic is part of the global climate system. An example is the second key finding in the overview: "Arctic warming and its consequences have worldwide implications." A number of similar statements also appear in the scientific report. The following quotes illustrate this emphasis on the Arctic as part of a global system:

The transport of water, heat, and salt by inflows are important elements of the global climate system.22

The Arctic is connected to the global climate, being influenced by it and vice versa.23

Changes in arctic ecosystems and their biota are important to arctic residents in terms of food, fuel, and culture (Chapter 12) and are likely to have global impacts because of the many linkages between the Arctic and more southerly regions. Several hundreds of millions of birds migrate to the Arctic each year and their success in the Arctic determines their success and impacts at lower latitudes (section 7.3.1.2). Physical and biogeochemical processes in the Arctic affect atmospheric circulation and the climate of regions outside of the Arctic (section 7.5).24

The Arctic plays a unique role in the global context and climate change in the Arctic has consequences that extend well beyond the Arctic.25

Looking at the quantitative analysis of selected words, the word global is more frequently used than the words regional or local in ten of the eighteen chapters, notably in frame-setting chapters such as the introduction, the description of Arctic climate past and present, and the summary and synthesis. It is also used frequently in chapters that discuss various aspects of the physical environment (temperature, precipitation, ice) or carbon flows (terrestrial ecosystems, forests). i.e. aspects where feedbacks between the Arctic and global system play a role.

The global framing is also apparent in the chapter on modeling and scenarios of future climate change. Here, a choice is made to rely on global climate models rather than emerging regional climate models (RCMs), which has implications for the report as a whole, since the scenarios are used for many of the chapters on impacts:

The current status of arctic regional climate modeling did not allow RCMs [Regional Climate Models] to be employed as principal tools for the ACIA. Present scenarios of future arctic climate change are therefore based on results from global AOGCMs [Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models].26

22 Chapter 2. Arctic Climate. Past and Present, 27.

23 Chapter 2. Arctic Climate. Past and Present, 23.

24 Chapter 7. Terrestrial Ecosystems and Polar Deserts, 247.

25 Chapter 18. Summary and Synthesis of the ACIA, 990.

26 Chapter 4. Future Climate Change. Modeling and Scenarios for the Arctic, 136.

To the extent that the other lead authors depended on model outputs, the assessment as a whole thus became limited by the spatial resolution in global climate models, at least in discussing future climate change.

Although there are many references in ACIA to the word global as well as to the connection between the Arctic and the global, global is less emphasized here than in the IPCC reports, as shown by the total number of times that the authors use the word global and its relative frequency to the word local. What emerges when comparing the frequency of the words global, or regional, and local or community is a pattern where the local and community level is more emphasized in the ACIA scientific report than in the IPCC reports, see Box 6.2. This may reflect a more general shift in interest towards local vulnerability in climate change but still warrants a closer look at where and how the local scale preference is introduced in the ACIA.

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