The regional perspective

In discussing spatial scale preferences, one might have expected a stronger emphasis on the regional in the ACIA than in IPCC's reports, but if anything the use of this word is less frequent. This is somewhat surprising considering that the ACIA is a regional assessment. The major exception was Chapter 4. Future Climate Change: Modeling and Scenarios for the Arctic, where the circumpolar scale is prominent because of attempts to adapt the global climate models so that they would be more useful in the Arctic context. This chapter also refers most frequently to the IPCC. Thus the regional framing may be connected to the general discussion in the IPCC about the need for more regional scale assessments. This discussion was an important driving force for initiating the ACIA (see Chapter 5 of this dissertation) and to the ongoing efforts of downscaling within the climate modeling community. However, the regional models were not ready for use in the ACIA. One factor behind the preference for either global or local perspectives in ACIA's science chapters rather than a regional perspective could thus be that the limits of modeling technology made it difficult to connect model results to local concerns. This might have created a void between an emphasis on global scale preference in the atmospheric sciences and the local or sub-regional focus in some of the impact studies. The conclusion that the lack of model resolution was a major issue is supported by the fact that the ACIA report itself identifies poor model resolution and inadequate treatment of sub-regional or small-scale physical processes as a gap in knowledge and as a future research need. The development of regional climate models since the ACIA continues to be carried out and the results may be quite different for future assessments.

The interviews with the lead authors suggest that those writing the assessment did not feel bound to use the circumpolar region as the only appropriate choice of spatial scale, and most followed what they saw as logical in the context of their chapter. In some cases, this created a more local focus and in other cases a more global focus than only looking at the Arctic. However, for some chapters, interviews indicate that the lack of resolution of the climate models used by the ACIA made it impossible to focus on what the authors considered to be the appropriate scale. There was only one lead author who clearly stated that the circumpolar scale was the scale of choice (Chapter 5. Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation). Thus it appears that the authors chose the scale that they considered most relevant in relation to their scientific questions, without feeling limited by ACIA's regional scale.

Even if the regional scale is less prominent than the global and local scale preferences, there appears to have been some normative pushes towards the regional scale. For example, most lead authors recounted attempts to widen the scientific networks to scientists from other parts of the Arctic. This was not seen as a contradiction to scientific concerns, rather the opposite as it created the potential for a wider geographical coverage and comparisons. An example of a deliberate effort to search for circumpolar patterns within the local data is Chapter 3. The Changing Arctic. Indigenous Perspectives, which highlights that there are local indigenous reports about changing weather and changing weather predictability from every region of the Arctic.29 In Chapter 14. Forests, Land Management and Agriculture, the lead author highlighted the key role the ACIA had played in creating a scientific network that allowed improved comparative studies of tree ring data.30

Even if the circumpolar context of the assessment did not play a major role in relation to scale preference, or could not overcome the technical limitations in featuring the regional scale, the Arctic is the common denominator for the report as a whole. The Arctic focus is further accentuated in the overview document. On the other hand the local and community levels are less prominent in the overview than in the scientific report.

An illustration of the different scale preferences came to the fore during the internal ACIA review of the overview document. The overview presents maps on past temperature changes that integrate measurements from several local sites but "smears" out the data to fill in gaps, basically creating contours between actual data points. The lead author of the scientific chapter dealing with past and present changes was very critical of this choice, and preferred other maps that showed the individual locations where the measurements had been taken. Although validation of the different data sets was one issue for this discussion, equally important was the different preferences in scale.31

We used the misoplot diagrams because ... [they] show you in a very descriptive way ... where there is data and where there isn't. You can take those data sets and put them into a contouring package that draws nice contours . between places where there is data and over places where there is no data. And you would often give the impression that we have more data than we really have. My view was that we should be honest, if there is not enough data points per grid square, we don't put any for that grid square. When you do contouring plots, you can't do that. 32

Thus it appears that the regional context of the assessment came to play a more important role in the overview than in the scientific framings and scale preferences that came to the fore in the scientific report.

Both the overview and some chapters in the scientific report, especially in Chapter 18. Summary and Synthesis of the ACIA, also highlight sub-regions of the Arctic. The geographic range of the sub-regions is interesting for the discussion of regional perspectives because of how the issue of scale affects the framing of climate change, most importantly in the tension between global versus local perspectives. The sub-regions were chosen based on commonalities in their climate characteristics, rather than similarities in cultural, social, or economic structures. For example, sub-region 1 consists of East Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Northwest Russia, and adjacent seas. This means that the sub-regions do not represent the same approach of start

29 Also discussed in interviews with lead authors Henry Huntington, December 21, 2004 and Shari Fox Gearhard, Novermber 12, 2004.

30 Interview Glenn Juday, November 11, 2004.

31 Compare Impacts of a Warming Arctic, 23, and Chapter 2. Arctic Climate Past and Present, 37-38 figures 2.7 and 2.8; Observations notes from meeting of the Assessment Integration Team in Copenhagen, March 2004.

32 Interview Gordon McBean, November 10, 2004.

ing research in the local or site-specific context that is common in many social sciences and that rely heavily on case studies and emphasize complexity, e.g. anthropology. Rather, it is a perspective that has its starting point in the global and then tries to scale down - a framing that can be found in climate sciences. It therefore appears that this attempt at sub-regional impact assessment is driven by the dominance of the global framing in climate science and policy, but this attempt is moderated in a way that may be more useful than global or circumpolar averages and generalizations. This interpretation is supported by the fact that scientific approaches from sub-regional integrated assessments that had been carried out previous to the ACIA, such as the Mackenzie Basin Impact Study and the Bering and Barents Sea impact studies, were not extensively used in the ACIA and only one of the people who had led these sub-regional integrated assessments came to play an active role in the ACIA. According to a comment by the leader of the Mackenzie Basin Impact Study, an initial workshop in the early phase of ACIA probably contributed to the idea of looking at sub-regions as a way of explicitly considering the unique social context of each region. However, this cross-cutting issue did not have a separate team of lead authors that were active during the entire assessment but relied on summarizing the material that had already been brought up in the other chapters. This may have contributed to the difficulties in meeting the original intention of a sub-regional synthesis.33.

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