Science and Policy in the ACIA Process

Within the scientific community, the key role of polar regions in the global climate system has been recognized at least since the late 1800s, but up until the past few years, the Arctic did not play a central role in the public discussion or in climate change policy. The year of 2004 marked a change to this relatively quiet role and Arctic images became prominent in the coverage of climate change.1 Two recent illustrations are a Time Magazine special report on climate change illustrated by a polar bear on melting sea ice accompanied by the headline "Be worried. Be very worried"2 and a 60 Minutes TV-special where the Arctic is called a bellwether, a barometer, and a canary in the mine warning about things to come.3 Some of this publicity was generated by the presentation of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). There was also increasing policy interest in Arctic climate change, exemplified by congressional hearings in the United States, high level policy discussions in the Arctic Council, and side events featuring Arctic interests at conferences of the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).4

This chapter analyzes the processes that generated and shaped the ACIA. The emphasis is on how the ACIA process developed rather than the final content of the ACIA reports, which will be the focus in the next chapter. This chapter is divided into four major parts: 1) the early origin of the ACIA, 2) the scientific report, 3) the overview document, and 4) the policy process. There is also a short discussion of other ACIA-related activities. Each major section begins with a chronological description of events

1 A search on the Swedish Mediarkivet, which covers 50 Swedish newspapers, magazines and wire services, gave 65 hits in 2004 using the words Arktis and klimat. This can be compared to 20 hits in 2003, 8 in 2002, and 11 in 2005. A search in the on-line archive of Washington Post using Arctic and climate change as search terms gave 10 hits in 2004 as well as in 2005, compared to 5 in 2003, the previous high. The range up until 2002 was 0-3. A similar search in the New York Times gave 17 hits in 2004 and 23 in 2005. The previous high was 15 in 2000. The range for individual years in the 1990s was 1-5.

2 "Special Report Global Warming," Time Magazine, April 3, 2006.

3 Bob Corell, chair of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, quoted in "A Global Warning: Scientist Says Global Warming Intensifies Storms, Raises Sea Levels," 60Minutes, Feb. 19, 2006.

4 US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, March 3, 2004: 2004 and US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Sep. 15, 2004.

that highlights the co-production of climate science and policy in the Arctic regional arena. It is followed by an analytical discussion focusing on international regimes, actor networks, and the norms that govern the interactions between science and policy. This chapter concludes with an overall discussion of the role of regimes and the science-policy dynamics in the ACIA process.

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