What is the Arctic Notes of geographic coverage

What areas does the Arctic cover in ACIA's framing? There are numerous definitions of the Arctic, such as the area north of the polar circle, north of 60oN. or north of the treeline.40 The ACIA, as a whole, covers an area that was defined by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) in the mid-1990s, where each country set the boundary within national borders and international marine areas were decided by consensus.41 The area is much larger than many people think of as the Arctic, see Figure 6.1. For example it includes large areas of boreal forest south of the tree line, as well as sub-arctic regions such as Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The driver for this rather wide definition of the Arctic no doubt results from the political context of the Arctic Council. The definition is, for example, different from the one used in the IPCC (area north of the Arctic Circle) and also does not follow the norm within any one scientific discipline. The history behind the encompassing definition of the Arctic is discussed further in Chapter 4 of this dissertation and can be summarized as a combination of geopolitical concerns and wishes for countries that do not border on the Arctic Ocean to be included in an emerging scientific cooperation.

39 ACIA, Impacts of a Warming Arctic: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, 24.

40 AMAP, Arctic Pollution Issues: A State of the Arctic Environment Report, 6-7.

41 See Chapter 1. Introduction, 2.

Figure 6.1. Map of ACIA's Arctic as defined by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (Reproduced from Arctic Pollution Issues, 1997).

Figure 6.1. Map of ACIA's Arctic as defined by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (Reproduced from Arctic Pollution Issues, 1997).

Southern boundaries of the High Arctic and the subarctic delineated on a basis of vegetation

-High Arctic


Southern boundaries of the High Arctic and the subarctic delineated on a basis of vegetation

-High Arctic


The Arctic Ocean makes up about two thirds of the Arctic area, as defined by the ACIA. Russia accounts for the largest share of the land, followed by Canada, Greenland, United States, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, and the Faroe Islands. The largest number of people in the Arctic live in Russia, followed by Alaska, Norway, and Iceland, see Table 6.2.

How does the ACIA cover the different parts of the Arctic? In terms of marine versus terrestrial systems, the frequency of words indicates a fairly strong emphasis on the marine environment, which is consistent with the polar chapter of the 2001 report from IPCC's Working Group II.

In terms of different Arctic countries, several author interviews indicate that it was difficult to gather data from Russia and that they were not satisfied with the coverage of Russia in their assessments. During the review, concerns were raised that several chapters had too strong a North American focus, at the expense of discussing other parts of the Arctic. A number count of how many times different countries are mentioned in the ACIA report confirms the poor coverage of Russia relative to its size, and the emphasis on North America. Most frequently mentioned is Greenland followed by Alaska and Canada, and Russia. Alaska is, in fact, mentioned almost 2.5 times more often than Russia (Table 6.2.). The discrepancy is not quite as large if one adds mentions of Siberia to the Russian count but is still substantial.

Table 6.2. Number of times countries (or regions) are mentioned in ACIA's scientific report.
















1 69


1 40


1 21





What could account for the differences in geographic share and mentions in the ACIA? The emphasis on Greenland could possibly be accounted for by its significance in a global climate context but this can hardly be said for the relatively low rating of Russia. Even Iceland is mentioned more often than Russia. The extent of present or projected future climate change also offers no clue since some of the largest changes have occurred in or are projected for parts of Siberia along with Alaska. A clue to the strong emphasis on Alaska and Canada and to the uneven distribution of coverage of other countries could possibly be explained by the distribution of nationality of lead and contributing authors, see Table 6.3.

Table 6.3. Country representation by authors in ACIA's scientific report and various indicators for each country's potential relevance to the ACIA. Data based on authors listed in Appendix 2 in Impacts of a Warming Arctic and the Arctic Human Development Report, chapters 2 and 4.

Canada Denmark Finland Iceland Norway Russia Sweden USA Other Greenland

Lead or con- 38

tributing authors

Land area, 2 rank

Population 8 rank

Ind. pop, rank

Faroe Is. 10

Gross Arctic 7 Product, rank

Gross Arctic 7 prod. % of GDP, rank

* based on estimate for the Nordic Saami

58 12

One might also argue that more research on climate change impacts has been done in the United States than in the other countries, but it is difficult to find numbers to test such an argument. Moreover, it would also be difficult to judge what research to include. As late as the mid-1980s, Russia was described as a leader in Arctic research making lamentations about the limited efforts in the United States.42 Since then much has happened regarding Arctic research in North America. Also, the Bering Sea Impact Study generated information specifically regarding climate change, which might have helped to emphasize Alaska. However, no similar signals came from the Barents Sea Impact Study. One contributing factor could be the placement of the secretariat in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the scientific networks it was able to muster for the assessment.

Research funding and infrastructure in Russia suffered hard during the reorganization of Russian society since the fall of the Soviet Union and this is likely to also have played a role concerning the relative lack of emphasis on Russia. It is noteworthy that the circumpolar cooperation in the Arctic Council has not been able to completely overcome the difficulties of accessing Russian data or the lack of scientific networks that cross the old East-West political boundary. It may be significant that the Arctic cooperation is a soft law regime in that obtaining information related to Arctic Council needs depends on the good will, priorities, and capacity of its member states to report data and sponsor participating scientists. This is in contrast to the legally binding commitments to provide country reports with data, such as carbon sources and sinks, in the Kyoto Protocol. Lack of Russian data or access to data that probably do exist is not unique to the ACIA but has been a recurring shortcoming in several scientific assessments in the Arctic. In the ACIA process, there were several initiatives to strengthen the coverage of Russia, including workshops in Russia to involve more Russian scientists, financial sponsorship of Russian scientists participating as authors, and trips by lead authors to Russia to make connections and access data. Nevertheless, it appears that old geopolitical structures still play a major role in knowledge production about the Arctic.

Does the emphasis on North America have any consequences for the framing of Arctic climate change? In some parts of the assessment, it probably does. For example, the lead author of Chapter 14. Forests, Land Management and Agriculture has pointed to the North American emphasis on unexploited forests compared to an emphasis on their economic role in Fennoscandia. This is also apparent in the map of ACIA chapters created by the principal component analysis (see Box 6.1.), where chapter 14 appears more closely related to the different ecosystem chapters than to the chapters dealing with resource management. In the chapters dealing with conservation and biodiversity, one of the lead authors pointed to a difference between the European emphasis of conservation and the North American emphasis of management of resources and the role of co-management that includes involvement of indigenous peoples. Moreover, the strong voice of indigenous peoples in the assessment could be the result of the stronger emphasis on indigenous rights in North America and longer tradition of research on indigenous people compared to Fennoscandia or Russia. At least one of the lead authors argues that these factors are important to the availability of a knowledge base to present indigenous perspectives.43 It is more difficult to judge whether the overall framing

42 Young, "The Age of the Arctic."

43 Interview Henry Huntingon, December 21, 2004.

would have been different with another distribution of knowledge input. Would, for example, the economic impact of climate change be more emphasized if Russia was more represented, considering the importance of the Russian North for Russia's economy? Not necessarily, because ACIA's scientific networks had weak connections to scientists who might have been able to conduct such an assessment. The answer may also depend on what issues different member states consider appropriate competence for the Arctic Council in relation to national sovereignty issues. Impact on the military would, for example, be very sensitive as military issues are explicitly excluded from the current cooperation in the Arctic Council.

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