This is Section 17.2.2 of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. Lead Authors: James J. McCarthy, Marybeth Long Martello; Contributing Authors: Robert Corell, Noelle Eckley Selin, Shari Fox, Grete Hovelsrud-Broda, Svein Disch Mathiesen, Colin Polsky, Henrik Selin, Nicholas J.C.Tyler; Corresponding Authors: Kirsti Strøm Bull, Inger Maria Gaup Eira, Nils Isak Eira, Siri Eriksen, Inger Hanssen-Bauer, Johan Klemet Kalstad, Christian Nellemann, Nils Oskal, Erik S. Reinert, Douglas Siegel-Causey, Paal Vegar Storeheier, Johan Mathis Turi
The Arctic is experiencing a number of striking social and environmental changes and influences.While some are welcome, others (considered stresses) have adverse consequences. Given that vulnerability is highly complex and can vary significantly with location, it is essential to conduct “place-based” analyses, where “placebased” suggests a spatially continuous set of human– environment conditions or systems. Since the vulnerability of a system is closely connected to the particular social and environmental conditions at a given location, the priorities and perspectives of people living in the location and those of other stakeholders are essential for identifying the key stresses, and understanding the exposure, sensitivity, and resilience of their coupled human–environment system (see section 17.3.4).Thus, knowledge, values, and understanding held by local residents are integral in determining which factors are most likely to test resilience of a system. Recent research on coupled human–environment systems demonstrates the efficacy of a participatory approach. The Sachs Harbour and Finnmark examples discussed in this chapter similarly evidence the importance of collaborating with local people and other stakeholders.
Preliminary consultations with arctic researchers and residents led the authors of this chapter to consider environmental pollution (POPs and heavy metals) and trends in human and societal conditions in addition to climate change and variability and UV radiation as potential stressors in arctic human–environment systems. The case for climate change is central to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, and so needs only a brief review in this section. Changes in UV radiation also receive considerable attention in the ACIA, but rather less is known about how possible harmful effects will be distributed in the Arctic. So little can be done at this time to assess vulnerability to this potential stress either in isolation or in combination with other factors. The comprehensive nature of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) studies allow much more to be said about organic and metal pollution as a potential stress in arctic systems, so more attention is given to pollution in this section.
It is important to note that, although they are often referred to here as stresses, climate change and trends in human and societal conditions can have positive as well as negative effects. Changes in climate and climate variability refer to changes in temperature, precipitation, snow cover, permafrost, sea ice, and extreme weather events. Major POPs include DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), HCH (hexachlorocyclohexane), and major heavy metals include lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), and mercury (Hg). Human and societal trends of interest are consumption (especially pertaining to foodstuffs and technology), settlement patterns and demography, governance and regulation (particularly regarding natural renewable resources), connectivity (e.g., telephones, email, Internet), and markets and trade. More in-depth fieldwork and analysis might reveal additional high priority stresses important for these sites.
Trends in human and societal conditions (188.8.131.52)
Arctic peoples have experienced significant social changes over the past few human generations as the Arctic’s borders have become more permeable to southerners, material goods, and ways of thinking; as indigenous peoples have asserted their identity, rights, and culture in legal and policy forums; and as new relationships have formed between local and national governments.The Arctic Council’s Arctic Human Development Report, especially its chapters on sustainable human development and economies is a logical and welcome next step in a synthesis of understanding in this area. Technology has been an important part of many such transformations. Satellites, television, the Internet, and telephones, for example, have revolutionized communication. Snowmobiles, all terrain vehicles, and more powerful small boats have brought new modes of transportation and recreation while accompanying changes in some hunting, herding, and fishing practices. The modernization of hunting equipment has also contributed to changes in approaches to whaling and marine mammal hunting. Individuals often have differing views about what types of social changes are beneficial and what types are unwanted. Some arctic residents, for example, might support the use of snowmobile technology in reindeer herding, while others might oppose it. Similarly, some people might view certain forms of human and societal change as adversely stressing a human–environment system, while others might view these changes as enhancing the resilience of that system. In seeking to understand how such changes bear on the vulnerability of arctic communities, this chapter examines a variety of human and societal factors including governance, population dynamics, migration, consumption, economies, markets and trade, and connectivity. These represent only a small subset of topics that constitute human and societal conditions. In some instances these factors are considered influences or stresses on the system (e.g., regulations limiting flexibility in reindeer herding). In other instances these factors can serve as both influences and part of the system’s adaptive and coping responses (e.g., migration and changes in consumption).
Climate change (184.108.40.206)
Projections of future climate change in the Arctic are documented in Chapter 4.Temperatures are projected to increase throughout the Arctic, even in sub-regions that have shown slight cooling trends in the latter half of the 20th century. Summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is projected to continue to decrease in area and thickness. The active layer of permafrost is projected to continue to deepen. Seasonal weather and precipitation patterns are likely to change, altering forms of precipitation between rain, freezing rain, and snow, and affecting snow quality. Recent evidence indicates that many of these changes are already affecting the distribution and abundances of terrestrial and marine species (see Chapters 7, 8, 9). Changes in temperature, precipitation, and storm patterns can affect the type, abundance, and location of animals and plants available to humans and may lessen the productivity of certain traditional forms of hunting and gathering. Decreases in the extent and thickness of sea ice can alter the distribution, age structure, and size of marine mammal populations, expose the arctic coast to more severe weather events, exacerbate coastal erosion, and affect modes of transportation and the ability of peo953 ple to reach hunting locations and other villages. Changes in surface water budgets and wetlands can change coastal microclimates, alter the size and structure of peatlands, and result in pond drainage. In addition, damp, wet air during the traditional “drying season” makes it difficult to dry and preserve foods for winter months.These changes would, in turn, result in effects felt not only in human communities in the Arctic, but in other areas of the world as well.
UV radiation (220.127.116.11)
Continued ozone depletion and the related problems of UV radiation exposure are likely to result in serious human and ecosystem impacts. UV radiation can harm humans directly via sunburn and skin cancer, immune system suppression, and eye damage, such as cataract photokeratitis. The synergistic effects of UV radiation, climate change, and pollution could be more intense than the effects of any one of these stresses acting alone. For example, aquatic organisms that have assimilated UV-B absorbing polyaromatic hydrocarbons have shown phototoxic effects when exposed to UV-B radiation. Exposure to UV radiation has also been found to increase the toxicity of some chemicals, especially those associated with oil spills.
Adverse effects of UV radiation on arctic plants and animals can also indirectly affect humans. The vulnerability of arctic ecosystems to UV radiation is greatest in spring when ozone depletion is at its maximum and when new organisms are beginning life. Arctic plants have fewer protective pigments and are more sensitive to UV radiation than similar plants in other regions of the world, partly because at low temperatures plants are less able to repair UV radiation damage.
Wildlife can experience UV radiation effects similar to those found in humans, although fur and plumage mean skin effects are less likely than eye damage. Increased UV radiation may affect fisheries through changes in planktonic food webs, but these changes are difficult to predict because they involve long-term alterations in species adaptation and community structure. If UV radiation were to change arctic aquatic ecosystems, this could in turn affect seabirds and land predators (e.g., seals, foxes, and bears) that feed on aquatic organisms.
AMAP concluded in both of its two recent assessments that pollution can pose problems in the Arctic. Heavy metals and POPs are of particular concern, although there are important regional and local variations within the Arctic. Both heavy metals and POPs are transported to the Arctic via long-range air and water pathways and both bioaccumulate in food webs (see Fig. 17.3). In addition to long-range transport, some pollutants originate from local sources such as the geology, industrial activities, pesticide use, and private use.
Heavy metals and POPs are associated with several environmental risks.These include estrogenic effects, disruption of endocrine functions, impairments of immune system functions, functional and physiological effects on reproduction capabilities, and reduced survival and growth of offspring. Data on human health effects suggest that human exposure to levels of POPs and heavy metals found in some traditional foods may cause adverse health effects, particularly during early development.
Traditional foods also provide health benefits, however, which need to be weighed against risks (see section 18.104.22.168). Many traditional foods are rich in vitamins and nutrients and low in saturated fats.Whale skin and blubber, for example, are a good source of vitamins A and C, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.They are also low in saturated fats and high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids that guard against cardiovascular diseases. Additional health benefits arise from the physical activity required to obtain traditional foods. Moreover, traditional harvesting, processing, and sharing of traditional foods serve important roles in the social, cultural, and economic life of many arctic inhabitants. In communities where contaminant levels are sufficiently high to prompt health concerns, balanced dietary advice is needed, especially for pregnant women and small children. Risk–benefit discussions have been most productive when they involve local communities, local public health authorities, and experts from a wide array of disciplines.
Persistent organic pollutants that require special attention in arctic vulnerability studies include the industrial chemicals PCBs; the pesticide DDT; and the pesticide HCH, the most common form of which, g-HCH, is the insecticide Lindane.These are well-known arctic pollutants of concern that are currently being addressed by national legislation and international agreements.
Many other POPs are known to be hazardous, as well as possibly other, lesser known organic substances that may have negative impacts. For example, levels of the flameretardants polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs), and the pesticide endosulfan are increasingly found in the Arctic. Levels of PBDEs are increasing in the Canadian Arctic. Ikonomou et al. suggested that at current rates of bioaccumulation, PBDEs will surpass PCBs to become the most prevalent contaminant in ringed seals (Phoca hispida) in the Canadian Arctic by 2050.
Fig. 17.3. Sources of pollutants to the Arctic.
For heavy metals, special attention should be given to Cd, Pb, and Hg. The rationale for selecting these heavy metals is similar to the rationale for selecting the POPs; they are well known arctic pollutants that have been subject to much previous study. They are also being addressed by national legislation and regional international agreements. Heavy metals are naturally-occurring environmental trace elements, and many are essential elements for living organisms. However, some have no known metabolic roles, and some are toxic even at low exposures. In the last 150 years there have been changes in the form in which these metals are released and dramatic increases in the quantity of these metals emitted to the environment. Anthropogenic emissions have altered the natural biogeochemical cycles of these elements. Anthropogenic sources of heavy metal pollution include industrial production, combustion processes, and waste incineration. These anthropogenic inputs add to the natural background levels and can pose a toxic risk to environmental and human health.
Pollutant interactions (22.214.171.124)
Climate change, pollution, and human and societal conditions are interrelated and the consequences of these phenomena will depend largely on their interactions. It is becoming increasingly clear, for example, that climate change and pollution interact closely and that climate changes can affect the pollution transport chain. Air current changes affect pollutant transport patterns. Temperature changes affect which pollutants are deposited where, how they migrate, and which animals accumulate which pollutants. More extensive melting of multi-year sea ice and glacial ice can result in pulse releases of pollutants that were captured in the ice over multiple years or decades.
Recently discovered mercury depletion events (MDEs) in the high Arctic reflect additional ways in which pollution interacts with other factors. Levels of gaseous elemental mercury drop sharply each spring following polar sunrise, in a series of events that begin shortly after the first sunrise and continue until the snow melts.These MDEs are highly correlated with depletions in surface ozone, and appear to be caused by a reaction involving sunlight and bromine. The gaseous elemental mercury is transformed into reactive gaseous mercury, which is quickly deposited and can potentially enter food webs in a bioavailable form. Because MDEs occur at a time when biological productivity is increasing, the interactions between pollutant transport pathways, solar radiation, and climate can be extremely important. It is still unclear to what extent changes in climate and pollutant pathways may affect these events.
Anthropogenic climate change and pollution are the products of societal activity and their consequences depend heavily on human and societal conditions.The effects of pollutants on human health are determined, in part, by regulations governing the use and disposal of hazardous chemicals, policies and public health guidance regarding human intake of potentially contaminated foods, public perceptions of and responses to such guidance, how much pollutant-contaminated food people ingest, cultural attitudes toward various types of food, and what access people have to these various foods.
Chapter 17: Climate Change in the Context of Multiple Stressors and Resilience
17.2. Conceptual approaches to vulnerability assessments
17.2.1. A framework for analyzing vulnerability
17.2.2. Focusing on interactive changes and stresses in the Arctic
17.2.3. Identifying coping and adaptation strategies
17.3. Methods and models for vulnerability analysis
17.4. Understanding and assessing vulnerabilities through case studies
17.4.1. Candidate vulnerability case studies
17.4.2. A more advanced vulnerability case study
17.5. Insights gained and implications for future vulnerability assessments
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