Attending the Arctic Circle 2017 Assembly allowed the participants to feel part of this vast, diverse and extremely complex region that is the Arctic, no matter where they come from. No doubt, Iceland’s Harpa Centre was an appropriate venue. The Finnish MSV Nordica icebreaker situated just a few steps away. Magnificent. Tough, maybe to remind us that there are no simple solutions to a changing Arctic.
These were three busy days of dialogue, interactions and learning. International government representatives, statesmen, organizations, corporations, universities, think tanks, NGOs, indigenous communities, reindeer herders and other actors interested in the Arctic have come together in Reykjavik to discuss priority issues affecting their lives and their businesses. The event gathered a plethora of stakeholders, representing different types of organizations, ways of life – from big city dwellers to nomads –, and coming from regions all over the Arctic and beyond. People with diverse professional roles and, therefore, with different priorities and interests – from owners of big corporations interested in financial planning to whale hunters concerned with the subsistence of their community – were shoulder to shoulder in this annual appointment. Participants had also different connections and stakes in the Arctic, ranging from economic interests linked to resources exploitation, over nature conservation to spiritual links to the Arctic territory coming from indigenous people’s traditions.
For APPLICATE and the Year of Polar Prediction (YOPP) projects, Arctic Circle provided an excellent platform to link with relevant initiatives focusing on the Polar regions. One of these initiatives is the Arctic Council, the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among Arctic States, Arctic Indigenous Communities and other Arctic inhabitants. The work of the Council is highly relevant to YOPP and APPLICATE and can provide valuable insights for both projects. Zooming in on Europe, the EU Arctic Cluster comprises different European H2020 Arctic Projects, including APPLICATE, which had the opportunity to meet at Arctic Circle and discuss the future cluster coordinated strategy for user engagement and dissemination.
Arctic Circle also provided a good opportunity for researchers to meet the stakeholders that can help define research priorities in the projects. Some priorities identified in discussions held during the assembly pointed at the need for reliable sea ice modelling for shipping planning. The use of future scenarios developed in conjunction with the shipping companies was especially stressed. Prediction of the snowpack was mentioned to be relevant for reindeer herding, security and skiing, whereas prediction of ocean temperature, acidity and salinity changes could be used for sustainable management of fish stocks contributing to food security. The added value of merging scientific knowledge with traditional knowledge was a commonplace in many speeches.
A clear outcome of the Arctic Circle assembly was that climate change in the Arctic will bring many challenges but also many opportunities. We should accept that there is a need for continuous and profound adaptation, trying to make the most of these opportunities, while minimizing negative impacts and preserving Arctic identity above all. The outreach of the impact is global. As the motto of Arctic Circle says: “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic”.