Diana Dushkova, Tatyana Krasovskaya & Alexander Evseev
The consequences of global climate change are mostly portrayed as negative for environment and society, due to the warming in temperatures. However, there are certain benefits from this process as well. One of them is the opening of a polar shipping route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The Northern Sea Route may cut travel time from Europe to Asia by 40% and allow Russia to export its vast natural resources much faster. Some expert assessments point out that remote northern Russian towns which have been experiencing economic depression in the transition period may turn to economic and social revival. But this process may entail new risks for fragile Arctic ecosystems and traditional nature management by Indigenous populations. Most discussions about Russia’s Northern Sea Route focus on shipping traffic, sea ice assessments and expected socio-economic benefits. However, assessments of the impact of further industrialization for the adjacent coastal zone ecosystems and northern residents are still inadequate. Thus, this paper is aimed not only at analyzing the Russian Arctic zone development strategy connected with the Northern Sea Route, but also to highlight the broad spectrum of human and environmental consequences of these activities. Among them, impacts on the economy (national and regional), the environment and population (effects caused by navigation activity and industrialization as well as risks for the coastal ecosystems and Indigenous people) will be assessed.