This is Section 17.5 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
Arctic human–environment systems are subject to high rates of change in climate and/or other environmental and societal factors. Some changes emanate from outside the Arctic, while other changes arise from within the region.The vulnerability of human–environment systems in the face of such changes can vary widely with differences in the character and relative importance of environmental and societal changes across local settings. Vulnerability analysis offers an approach for exploring implications of environmental and social changes in a way that recognizes the interconnectedness of human and environment systems and the exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity of these systems as they experience stresses or anticipate potential stresses arising from and interacting across local, regional, and global scales.
The Sachs Harbour and Greenland examples, plus the more developed case study on reindeer herding in Finnmark (section 17.4.2), reveal the importance of characterizing the place-based aspects of coupled human– environment systems, analyzing multiple and interacting stresses across multiple scales, accounting for adaptive capacity in assessing vulnerability, and incorporating varied forms of knowledge, analytical tools, and methodologies in vulnerability analysis.These case studies demonstrate that in their decision-making arctic residents integrate their experiences and expectations of change in environmental and societal factors in addition to changes in climate and variation in climate. They also illustrate that vulnerability analysis can be applied in situations where the social and environmental changes important for a particular human–environment system operate at different scales.
Given the close linkages between arctic peoples and the natural settings in which they live and on which they depend, a meaningful and useful analysis of arctic vulnerabilities requires the definition, characterization, and analysis of coupled human–environment systems. The human–environment systems at the heart of the case studies presented in this chapter are centered around human livelihoods (e.g., marine resource use). Seen from a human perspective, livelihoods are arguably the most salient aspect of a coupled human– environment system because the practices they entail involve close, fairly well-circumscribed, and critical interactions between social and natural systems in a particular locale, yet with discernible linkages to dynamics operating not only within, but also across local, regional, and global levels. Livelihoods are also the focal point of social organization, culture, and identity. The focus on reindeer herding in Finnmark, for example, enables the identification of specific climate related changes (e.g., regarding snow pack and forage) and regulations (e.g., regarding land rights and predators) that affect this system. The identification of stresses, vulnerabilities, and response strategies for a more broadly defined system (e.g., for all indigenous peoples in Fennoscandia) would be more difficult and arguably less useful.The complex dynamics important for understanding vulnerability are apparent in all case studies. In Greenland and Sachs Harbour the size, health, and harvest of fish and marine mammals depend on climate, pollution, market factors, regulations, and technology. In Finnmark, climate changes and regulations have profound effects on reindeer, reindeer habitats, and herder practices and livelihoods. In Greenland with its market ties to distant localities via fish and fur products it is evident that coupled human– environment systems in the Arctic are influenced by sociopolitical, socio-economic, and cultural factors originating outside as well as inside the region. Arctic residents accommodate this range of influences in their coping decisions.
As these studies also show, primary stresses like climate change can have cascading and interacting impacts on many different aspects of the arctic physical and biological environment. Some factors, for example local climate shifts, can impact on many different components of the arctic system with differing magnitudes, timing, effects, and interactions. Thus, an increase in air and water temperature will probably affect the distribution of coastal winter sea ice and alter the access of local people to fishing and hunting areas; it may affect local oceanography and alter the habitats of marine mammals and their prey; it may increase the abundance of forage that reindeer eat; it may accelerate physical processes of pollutant transport and reactivity; and it may affect the health and well-being of arctic residents through decreased access to traditional foods and increased incidence of disease, etc. Each of these effects can interact with others leading to more complex, higher-order effects. For example, the seasonal distribution and migratory routes of marine mammals may shift, forcing the hunters and their families either to follow the animals and relocate or to adopt new economies and lifestyles.
The case studies also illustrate the importance of examining multiple, interacting stresses, operating within and across local, regional, and global scales, as well as the adaptive capacity of systems weathering these stresses. Stresses (as well as potential opportunities) facing marine resource systems arise from interactions among, for example, climate, global markets, environmental and animal welfare campaigns, and changes in governance. Stresses (as well as potential opportunities) facing reindeer herding systems arise from interactions among changes in, for example, climate, forage, technology, and regulation. These factors do not, by definition, always lead to negative consequences. Changes in governance might be just as likely to reduce vulnerability as they are to contribute to vulnerability. A holistic understanding of vulnerability requires analysis of these many factors and their interactions, along with an understanding of how the coupled human–environment system in question might cope with or adapt to the changes brought about by these factors. Coping and adaptation can diminish the vulnerability of certain components of the system and thereby offset adverse impacts.Vulnerability analyses reveal where actions can best be taken to enhance adaptive capacity, for example, via changes in public policy and new strategies in resource management, and anticipatory measures to prepare for adverse circumstances and mitigate their effects. Arctic human and environment systems have a long history of coping with and adapting to social and natural changes. The resilience exhibited by arctic peoples provides insight into how these coupled human–environment systems might adapt in the future. Mobility, flexibility in livelihood (e.g., hunting, fishing, herding) practices, and a capacity for innovation all contribute to adaptive capacity, including a capacity to plan and prepare for contingencies. For example, the varied strategies that reindeer herders have developed for dealing with environmental and social changes are also strategies through which herders anticipate and prepare for future events. Nomadism itself is a way of anticipating future opportunities or adverse conditions. Because they are mobile, Sámi reindeer herders can respond quickly to unfavorable weather and/or snow conditions in one location by moving to another. “Trading” in snow is another practice that helps herders to successfully handle contingencies. An accounting of past and present adaptive measures is an important component of vulnerability assessment.
Vulnerability assessment also requires varied forms of knowledge and the development of new analytical tools and methodologies. Understanding the stresses facing place-based coupled human–environment systems and the adaptive measures they might take in response to these stresses necessitates novel modes of inquiry. Involving indigenous peoples and other arctic residents in the research process is extremely important in developing such understandings. Methods to integrate indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge such as biology, climate science, political science, and anthropology are similarly important. Climate downscaling, pollutant modeling, scenario development for societal trends, environmental monitoring, interviews, focus groups, workshops, and ethnography comprise additional approaches that could be integral to vulnerability analysis.
The following sections contain general conclusions pertaining to the assessment of trends in climate, pollution, and human and societal conditions, and some comments on next steps.
The results of downscaling analyses reported for Finnmark provide preliminary insights into how temperature and precipitation may change in this region. The projections presented in the Finnmark case study were calculated using a single domain (20º W–40º E and 50º N–70º N for Karasjok, Norway). A more comprehensive downscaling program would provide projections using multiple downscaling domains.The models presented here also use a single predictor variable: large-scale temperature for projecting local temperature, and large-scale precipitation for projecting local precipitation. It remains to be seen how sensitive the results are to the selection of downscaling domain or predictor variables. Also important to include would be downscaling results for a number of additional variables such as snow and ice cover, permafrost conditions, and extreme events, as well as sensitivity analyses to examine the robustness of the various projections. A more comprehensive program would also involve residents more directly in research design, analysis, and dissemination.
Effective downscaling must engage local people. Snow quality, for example, is an extremely important factor for reindeer herding and reindeer herders have many words to describe snow quality. In contrast, climate downscaling provides information about a relatively limited number of variables. It is therefore not obvious how typical climate forecasting products and terminology might be made relevant for reindeer herders.Thus, in principle, analysts conducting downscaling for a vulnerability study should first assimilate the views and information needs of local people for the products of these analyses. In practice this will require creative ways for presenting results to non-climate specialists in order to address their needs and concerns and make most advantage of their local knowledge. As with any climate analysis, the models used in this study produce an enormous quantity of information – all of which is important for the analysis but most of which may not be useful for decision-makers.The risk of information overload is high. For example, at a minimum, for each downscaled climate variable, month, and general circulation model analyzed, vulnerability researchers should examine estimates of trend, variability, historical goodness-of-fit, and spatial distribution.Thus, climate analysts need to be willing to tailor their model products to the specific needs of local decision-makers.
Information on POPs and heavy metals in the Arctic is widely available for the past two decades. Data on environmental concentrations for a number of chemicals exist for both western Greenland and Fennoscandia. These data, however, tend to be temporally and spatially dispersed. Data on local, long-term trends in environmental levels of POPs and heavy metals are much less abundant for both loci.There are, however, reliable time trends for certain species (e.g., reindeer and arctic char) in Fennoscandia. Data from the early 1980s to 2000 indicate generally declining environmental levels of POPs in both Disko Bay on the west coast of Greenland and in Fennoscandia.Trends in environmental heavy metal levels in western Greenland and Fennoscandia are less clear than for POPs. Some heavy metal levels have increased, while others show no change, or even a decrease.
Long-term local human trend data are even less available for western Greenland and Fennoscandia than environmental trend data.Available data suggest that observed human health problems relating to POPs and heavy metals are greater in western Greenland than in Fennoscandia. At the regional level, the greatest heavy metal threat to human health is due to Hg. Exposure to Hg in Greenland is at levels where subtle health effects can occur on fetal and neonatal development. As in Fennoscandia, environmental heavy metal levels in the Disko Bay region show diverse trends. Daily human intake of Cd and Hg in the Disko Bay region is comparatively high.
Levels of POPs in both regions can be expected to decline toward 2020 due to increasing international regulation, although other POPs such as brominated flame retardants could become a growing problem. Trends in environmental heavy metal levels to 2020 in both regions are more difficult to project than for POPs.
Future place-based pollutant research for vulnerability analysis would ideally consist of exposure and trend monitoring, human health and epidemiological analyses, and collection of other relevant data such as information about dietary intake, smoking, and other influences on pollutant burden. All these types of study are feasible and have been done at various sites; however, a vulnerability study necessitates that this information be available for a specific location.There is also a need to better understand local means of adaptation to problems with pollution, both in terms of what has been done and what could be done.
Trends in human and societal conditions (17.5.3)
Several general trends (i.e., those concerning governance; population and migration; consumption; economy, markets and trade; and connectivity) are apparent in human and societal conditions throughout much of the Arctic. In recent decades, governing authority in Greenland and places within Canada and Alaska has rested increasingly with indigenous peoples. At the same time, regulations (particularly those pertaining to natural resource use) emanating from local, national, and international bodies are playing important roles in the lives of arctic peoples and the ways in which they are permitted to use land and to harvest fish and marine and terrestrial mammals. In addition, pan-arctic cooperation is increasing and transnational networks of indigenous peoples are growing. More people live in arctic urban areas than was the case thirty years ago, less traditional food is being consumed, a larger number and greater variety of imported technologies are employed, and people are more “wired” via the Internet, television, telephones, and satellites. Mixed economies have become more prevalent throughout the Arctic and the connections linking arctic economies with global markets are becoming stronger.
But while human and societal trends identified in this project are noteworthy for the Arctic as a whole, they by no means represent a complete inventory of such trends. Nor are they necessarily the most important trends for understanding the vulnerability of the case study sites. A more comprehensive and complete analysis of human and societal trends within the context of a fully-fledged vulnerability analysis would require the broad and systematic engagement of people living in the case study locations, and the use of tools such as surveys, participant observation, workshops, interviews, focus groups, and ethnography to ascertain what human and societal conditions are most relevant to a particular coupled human–environment system, how these conditions have changed over recent decades, and how they are expected to change in the future.The development of several alternative future societal scenarios would be useful in carrying out the difficult task of projecting future human and societal conditions and assessing their implications for coupled human–environment system vulnerabilities. The production and comparison of multiple scenarios could facilitate sensitivity analysis.
Oran Young defined sustainable development as “...an analytic framework intended to provide structure and coherence to thinking about human/environment relations”.Young calls for a sustainable development discourse that will facilitate efforts to identify and address arctic concerns. He adds that “To be useful in an arctic context, sustainable development must take into account the distinctive ecological, social, and cultural features of the region and offer an integrated approach to the endogenous and exogenous threats to sustainability peculiar to the circumpolar world”. According to this view, vulnerability (and resilience) analysis as outlined in this chapter, can serve as a vehicle for conceptualizing and implementing sustainable development.Vulnerability analysis offers a holistic vision of human–environment systems and their dynamics at local to global scales. It recognizes that environmental changes are interactive, that ecology, culture, economics, history, and politics are interconnected, and that decisions about what to sustain and how must be made in particular social and ecological contexts. However, vulnerability analysis is more than a research strategy. It has the potential to provide processes in which people with varied backgrounds and interests can engage in dialogue, produce knowledge, and articulate values. Such processes can ultimately inform the ways in which communities and governments balance aspirations for human and societal development with those of environmental and social sustainability.
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
- ^AMAP, 2003.AMAP Assessment 2002: Human Health in the Arctic. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, Oslo, Norway. xiv+137p.
- ^AMAP, 2002. Arctic Pollution 2002: Persistent Organic Pollutants, Heavy Metals, Radioactivity, Human Health, Changing Pathways. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, Oslo, Norway. xii+112p.
- ^Young, O.R., 1998b. Emerging priorities for sustainable development in the circumpolar north.The Northern Review, Special Issue, 18:38–46.