Arctic Frontiers Science

Theme 4: Local or Global Arctic? Multi-scaled considerations of connections and remoteness in climate-impacted communities

Societal, political, and scientific challenges are converging in the Arctic as temperatures rise, sea ice and glaciers retreat, and permafrost thaws. There remains an urgent need to document, understand and to respond to the causes of changes to the Arctic environment. Given the inability of the world’s carbon-intensive societies to significantly reduce their emissions in the near future, there is an urgent need for Arctic communities to consider how they may need to adapt to a warming planet while at the same time looking for whether there might be synergies for social or economic transformation within these ongoing shifts in the international community.

In this session, we will address this urgency and seek to bring together experts concerned with understanding Arctic climate change and its impacts on communities alongside individuals focused on questions of adaptation and political, sociocultural, environmental, and economic transformations related to a changing Arctic. We are interested in both issues that are relevant at a pan-Arctic scale, local case studies, especially those from which lessons can be scaled up or down and cross disciplinary solutions for a sustainable development. One key case study for which we are eager to see examples highlighted is Svalbard – for instance, whether local climate change and adaptation strategies pursued there can be applied in other Arctic communities.

Key questions driving this session are: What are the key climatic and environmental impacts currently facing Arctic communities? What are their causes? How do these impacts manifest across a range of scales, from the local to the pan-Arctic, and how do they also interact with global processes? What strategies can be realistically implemented in the short term to encourage relatively immediate societal and infrastructure adaptation? Over the longer-term, as societies transform, are there adaptation strategies or technological solutions that could lead to new economic opportunities or job creation?

From this point of departure, we invited submissions addressing the above topics and other questions such as:

  • Coupled human-society interactions, especially between issues such as climate change and infrastructure or climate change and economic activities
  • Modeling and predicting environmental and societal changes relating to climate change, with attention to spatial and temporal scale
  • Translating scientific predictions into practical solutions for stakeholders
  • Identifying “prototypical” aspects of climate, societal, or infrastructural change in the Arctic (for instance in places such as Svalbard)
  • Considering linkages between climate change and society, such as with:
    • Risks that coastal erosion presents to infrastructure and cultural heritage
    • A warming ocean and its impact on fishing and coastal communities
    • Whether climate change will diminish the value of the Arctic as a tourist destination
    • How reductions in ice (i.e. sea ice or frozen rivers) will impact transportation
    • How permafrost thaw may affect the built environment
  • Imagining how new and improved communication systems, foreseen in the near future may, impact those living in the Arctic
  • In which way remote-controlled and autonomous systems will affect further Arctic development

Scientific committee

  • Mia Bennett, The University of Hong Kong (co-lead)

  • Jostein Bakke, University of Bergen, Norway (co-lead)

  • Jessica Graybill, Colgate University, USA

  • Ketil Isaksen, Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Norway

  • Ingrid Medby, Oxford Brookes University, UK

  • Andrey Petrov, University of Northern Iowa, USA

  • Peter Schweitzer, University of Vienna, Austria


The Arctic Frontiers secretariat is hosted by Akvaplan-niva located at the Fram Centre in Tromsø, Norway. The secretariat is responsible for day to day operations and for the organisation of the annual conference, and reports to the steering committee.

The secretariat is led by Ole Øvretveit.


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