Alexandra Middleton, Anastasia Lazariva, Frode Nilssen, Alexey Kalinin & Anastasia Belostotskaya

The Arctic region has increasingly come to be seen in a new light because of the global transformations resulting from the disruptive challenges of climate change and shifting global political, social and economic patterns. The harsh environmental conditions there have long constrained economic activity. The climate crisis, while having a negative impact on the region in some senses, opens up new prospects for development in others. The Arctic has become a geopolitical hot spot where global and regional players seek to increase their influence. On one side, the Arctic possesses vast natural resources and increasingly will be an important global source of bio-resources. The area is also one of geopolitical tension. On the other side, the Arctic represents a “temperature gauge” for distant pollution and waste in the sea. At the same time, powerful voices from supranational institutions are putting heavy pressure on preserving the Arctic as a kind of “nature protected area” with severe restrictions on economic activity and human impact. This paper draws attention to the tension between the regional interest in maintaining and developing a socially, economically and biologically sustainable area of human settlement and the more detached interest in preserving the Arctic as a nature reserve. The study approaches Arctic development from a social, ecological and environmental point of view, mapping key development drivers and the changing geopolitical context. The research utilizes scenario methodology and qualitative expert interviews combined with comprehensive literature studies. Four scenarios illustrate how the Arctic might look in 2050 and what the implications might be for the sustainable development of the region from the economic, social and environmental perspectives.

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