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Arctic Climate Change

9. How can future assessments be improved?

    The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment was the first effort to comprehensively examine climate change and its impacts in the Arctic region. As such, it represents the beginning of a process. The assessment brought together the findings of hundreds of scientists and the insights of Indigenous Peoples. This approach of linking scientific and indigenous perspectives is still in its early stages, and can potentially improve our understanding of climate change and its impacts.

    While environmental impacts were covered extensively, estimates of economic impacts and of impacts at the sub-regional level need to be further developed. Studies that consider both climate change impacts and the effects due to other factors in an integrated way were covered only in a preliminary fashion. Three high-priority areas for future assessments have been identified:

    • Sub-regional Impacts: future assessments will need to focus on smaller regions to be more relevant and useful to residents.
    • Socioeconomic Impacts: Many important economic sectors will experience direct and indirect impacts due to climate change, but in most cases, only qualitative information is presently available.
    • Vulnerabilities: Assessing vulnerability of a system to adverse effects requires better knowledge of the consequences of stresses and their interactions, but also of the capacity of the system to adapt.

    This will require a series of improvements, such as an extensive long term monitoring network for climate-related parameters, studies focusing on Arctic ecosystem processes, improved modeling of various interactions and extreme events, as well as improved projection of impacts on society.

    Finding effective ways of bringing the information gathered in the ACIA process to Arctic communities presents an additional challenge. Various scientific, governmental, and non-governmental organizations plan to work to make the results of the ACIA process useful to a wide variety of constituents, from those who live and work on the land to those who determine local, national, and international policies relevant to the climate challenge.

    The ACIA has built on the substance and conclusions of the assessments prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Just as the ACIA has built on IPCC’s past evaluations, the next IPCC report, in 2007, will build on ACIA’s findings with regard to the Arctic, doing so in a way that adds more global context.

    Other national and international efforts offer opportunities to further understand climate change and ultraviolet radiation impacts. For instance, the International Polar Year (IPY), being planned by the world’s scientific community for 2007/2009 will provide another opportunity to focus research attention on climate change and other important Arctic issues. The International Geophysical Year in 1957/8 first initiated systematic measurements of stratospheric ozone and atmospheric CO2 enabling the discoveries of ozone depletion and greenhouse gas-induced climate change. ACIA’s findings can help focus International Polar Year’s and other research efforts. More...

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