Sennan D. Mattar, Michael Mikulewicz & Darren McCauley

Apart from rapidly affecting the Arctic environment, climate change poses significant societal challenges in the region, as well. However, compared to the impacts of rising temperatures on local ecosystems, our understanding of the social dimensions of climate change in the Arctic appears limited. In this article, we respond to this knowledge gap and to the recent calls for reorienting climate research in the region towards people and ethics. We do so by charting a climate research agenda for the Arctic guided by climate justice – a framework we use to examine the unevenness of climate impacts and the responses to them in the region.

We begin by providing an overview of current climate-related social science research in the Arctic with a focus on adaptation, mitigation, health, Indigenous studies, security, and governance. We note the scarcity of works focused explicitly on equity or justice in this context. After briefly outlining key relevant climate justice approaches, we propose a critical and interdisciplinary manifesto for climate scholarship in the Arctic centred on research focus and scale, knowledge decolonisation and co-production, new methodologies and solutions. We also discuss its practical implications for researchers and policymakers centred around non-Western frameworks of climate justice, communities’ own stories of climate injustice, and using climate justice as a bridge to interdisciplinarity. We conclude by arguing that climate justice offers to align research in humanities, social sciences and natural sciences to successfully inform policymakers on the true costs of and the ‘real’ solutions for climate change issues in the Arctic.

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Alexandra Middleton

Collectively, Finland, Norway and Sweden have some of the most ambitious commitments for combatting climate change, with Finland’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2035, Norway’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and Sweden’s goal to have zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest. Recent attempts on the international level to address climate change have resulted in setting up in 2015 the FSB (Financial Stability Board) Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). In 2017 TCFD introduced recommendations on voluntary, consistent climate-related financial risk disclosures for companies to provide information to investors and other stakeholders about risks and opportunities related to the transition to a lower-carbon economy. The article addresses climate change accountability by states and by companies in the Nordic Arctic countries. Climate change accountability or willingness to take responsibility is proxied by companies’ reporting in compliance with TCFD. First, I investigate institutional mechanisms of TCFD adoption in the Nordic Arctic, including Finland, Norway and Sweden. To achieve that, I study Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish institutions that endorse or provide practical guidelines for implementing TCFD, e.g., stock market regulators. The study results provide an overview of governance structures and practical implementation of TCFD in the Nordic Arctic (Finland, Norway and Sweden). Furthermore, the study contributes to the discussion on how to balance ambitious climate change targets with sustainable economic development in the Arctic regions.

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Hema Nadarajah

Soft law has been observed to be increasing within the global system, particularly in regions and issue-areas where scientific and technological knowledge has been substantively integrated into decision-making and governance. The often-used assumption for the prevalence of such instruments has been the uncertainty of scientific knowledge. This paper takes this oversimplified analysis further by examining the contemporary changes to the international system such as the number and diversity of state and nonstate actors as well as their relative influence through a close examination of the Arctic and climate change.

This paper makes three fundamental contributions. Firstly, it proposes that soft law instruments would be best categorized as binding or non-binding. Binding soft law instruments, called “soft treaties”, fall within the twilight zone of binding, yet soft instruments that contain little to no new obligations for its Parties. Secondly, it empirically establishes that soft law instruments are becoming more pervasive than previously claimed in the literature. In order to identify reasons for its prevalence, this research examines a sample of instruments using mixed methodology encompassing legal textual analysis and a review of the international relations and international law literature. Thirdly, it examines the potential consequences of this contemporary global policy paradigm that is rooted in soft law and its variants. The following implications of soft law’s prevalence were identified within the cases of the Arctic and climate change: (1) written international law is increasingly adaptable and follows a non-linear evolution; (2) complacency could stem from institutional design established by soft law; (3) path dependency to cooperate within discrete areas could emerge through the iterated negotiation of soft law instruments, despite diplomatic challenges faced elsewhere; and (4) more opportunities for states to forum shop may arise due to soft law’s prevalence within each regime complex.

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Håkan T. Sandersen, Julia Olsen, Grete K. Hovelsrud & Arild Gjertsen

The Norwegian aquaculture sector continues to increase both spatially and in terms of production volume, but is vulnerable to changes in weather, temperature, marine environmental conditions, and other conditions. More than a third of Norway’s aquaculture production takes place in Northern Norway, a region where the rate and magnitude of climate change is already twice that of the global average. In this article, we investigate representatives from the aquaculture industry and their perceptions of climate change and how it influences their current and future operations. Our findings show that climate change is generally not a central concern for aquaculture companies and climate change is translated into and understood as a gradual intensification of already existing problems. The industry aims at balancing their production targets with the management systems’ environmental and sustainable development requirements and focusing on short-term challenges such as lice, diseases, and market trends. Although most adaptive measures are not justified directly as climate related, the industry is highly adaptive and responsive to climate relevant changes through continuous adaptation and innovation strategies. The only measure that is genuinely climate related is the efforts of some of the actors to localize parts of their production capacity further north. The findings are based on semi-structured interviews with representatives of eight aquaculture companies whose facilities are localized in Northern Norway.

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Hannah Grist, Joan Ballester, M. Femke de Jong, Helene R. Langehaug, Steffen M. Olsen & Didier Swingedouw

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, but is intricately connected to it through oceanic and atmospheric circulation. Improved observational networks quantifying these connections and subsequent climate model development are enhancing our ability to describe, model, and predict Arctic climate change and its impact on northern hemisphere weather and climate, including their extremes. These developments have made skilful predictions from a sub-seasonal to a decadal timescale possible. Decadal prediction lies in the middle between short to medium range weather forecasts and global-scale climate change projections, and allows predictions of time-evolving regional climate conditions. These predictions are very relevant to the time period that many communities need in order to plan for the near future and beyond, where adaptation is possible and understandable for a wide range of sectors and new opportunities can be explored.

Here, we talk about climate change in the Arctic, and the mechanisms by which it can influence the northern hemisphere weather and climate. We discuss how recent scientific work on understanding these mechanisms can increase predictive skill. We present case studies demonstrating the potential for these outputs to be translated into climate services across the region, providing specific and relevant information for businesses, communities and policy-makers on evolving future conditions and allowing dynamic adaptation. Finally, we look ahead to the next developments in this area, and discuss the scientific requirements for future progression.

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Mariel Kieval

Arctic security dialogues have increasingly featured nontraditional topics such as climate change and maritime safety. Many people around the world have only recently started seeing the effects of climate change in their own communities, however, this is not the case for many Arctic peoples, whom climate change has been affecting for decades, and on a much larger scale. As polar temperatures reach new highs, human security is becoming a larger issue. Over eighty-five percent of Alaska Native villages are experiencing increased erosion and flooding, as well as melting of the permafrost that makes up their land. The stories of Newtok and Shismaref are better known, but many villages are still grappling with decisions over relocation and dealing with government inaction. This article provides an overview of the choices at-risk Arctic communities have by looking at existing government procedures. The governments of the United States, Norway and Russia will be highlighted, and this article will analyze their existing policies. This article will also look at options that are available for villages opposed to uprooting their communities. Indigenous communities located on or near unstable permafrost have a right to decide if, when and where to move. They deserve dignity and choices, and states’ actions and policies will set a precedent for how future communities facing climate migration will be treated.

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