A recurring theme in ACIA's scientific report that is brought out by the qualitative analysis is the complex interconnectedness of many factors that have to be taken into account when assessing the impacts of climate change. This emphasis is particularly visible in chapters that deal with either ecosystems or with human activities. The following examples illustrate this theme of interconnectedness:
Many of the examples of indigenous perspectives of climate change presented here illustrate how the impacts of climate change are connected, interacting to produce further changes.65
Even among global factors, climate change is one of an array of drivers, such as eutrophication, often working in synergy with climate change and reinforcing the effect.66
Many arctic freshwater systems are exposed to multiple environmental stressors or perturbations including point- and/or nonpoint-source pollution (e.g., long range aerial transport of contaminants; section 8.7); altered hydrologic regimes related to impoundments and diversions; water quality changes from landscape alterations (e.g., mining, oil and gas exploration); and biological resource exploitation (e.g.,
64 See Chapter 11. Gender issues in AHDR, Arctic Human Development Report for an introduction to a variety of views on gender issues in the Arctic; quote from 187.
65 Chapter 3. The Changing Arctic: Indigenous Perspectives, 94
66 Chapter 7. Arctic Tundra and Polar Desert Ecosystems, 290.
subsistence and commercial fisheries and harvesting of waterfowl and mammals; section 8.5), to name a few. These stressors, along with climate variability, can synergistically contribute to the degradation of biological diversity at the species, genetic, and/or habitat-ecosystem levels .. ,67
Even when changes in fish populations are predictable to a high degree of accuracy, there is no deterministic relationship between these changes and those in society. Social change is driven by a number of different forces; with climate change only one of a number of natural factors.. In addition, societies have the capacity to adapt to change. Changes in fish stocks, for example, are met by adjustments in fisheries management practices and the way fisheries are performed.68
Health is a multifactorial concept, influenced by a variety of determinants, climate change being one of many environmental factors.69
Climate change occurs amid myriad social and natural transformations. Understanding and anticipating the consequences of climate change, therefore, requires knowledge about the interactions of climate change and other stresses and about the resilience and vulnerability of human-environment systems that experience them.70
Without a corresponding qualitative analysis of the IPCC's reports, it is difficult to judge whether this focus on interconnections and complexity is unique to or more prominent in the ACIA report. A look at the frequency of words such as interaction(s), and interconnection(s) reveals no obvious patterns, neither does the word complex.
Looking at the ACIA report, interactions and complexity are especially highlighted in the chapters on terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, in a chapter on climate change in the context of multiple stressors, and in a chapter discussing impacts on indigenous peoples and renewable resources. They are less prominent in chapters focusing on the physical environment. Common to the chapters that highlight complexity is also a focus on local or sub-regional spatial scales or a range of scales. These are essentially the same chapters that also have their knowledge base in either biological or social sciences. The physical science chapters, on the other hand, often have an emphasis on the global or circumpolar scale or are built upon a logic that takes its starting point in global climate change and then discusses the potential impacts at the regional level.
While it is difficult to tell whether this focus on the interconnectedness of many factors and contexts sets the ACIA apart from IPCC Working Group II report as a whole, nevertheless there appears to be more attention paid to complexity and context in ACIA than in the polar chapter of the IPCC's Working Group II report. Part of this can probably be explained by the fact that IPCC's chapter on polar regions has only 42 pages to summarize issues, compared to the ACIA report's 1045 pages. However, there is also a different pattern in how often different words are used. Words like social, socioeconomic, and cultural are used more frequently in the ACIA report that in IPCC's polar
67 Chapter 8. Freshwater Ecosystems and Fisheries, 384.
68 Chapter 13. Fisheries and Aquaculture, 694.
69 Chapter 15. Human Health, 898.
70 Chapter 17. Climate Change in the Context of Multiple Stressors and Resilience, 946.
chapter. For words like physical and atmosphere, the relationship is inverted and so they receive a stronger emphasis is IPCC's polar chapter. In a way, the ACIA has brought the description of climate change in the Arctic more in line with the global discussion of climate change impacts. The role of people come more to the fore. This is connected closely to the previous discussion about the emphasis on indigenous peoples in the ACIA and the drivers are probably similar. Moreover, during the ACIA process, indigenous peoples' organizations pushed to make this assessment relevant to people in the Arctic and not just to climate scientists.71 In addition, one should note that there was a push from the Arctic Council during the ACIA process to include socioeconomic analyses. Even if the assessment has less about socioeconomic impacts than about physical and biological impacts, the Arctic Council context and the needs for this knowledge among national policy makers may therefore also be at play.
The trend or pattern described here is not a strong one: it is not that one framing that has replaced another. It might however indicate a slight shift in the current framing. This shift may become stronger with time since ACIA, itself, identifies the treatment of socioeconomic impacts as insufficient and calls for more efforts in this area.
Was this article helpful?