Climate, Geopolitics, and Change in the Arctic
RAND Corporation Santa Monica
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Climatic, economic, technological, geopolitical, regulatory, and social forces are driving and will continue to drive the future of the Arctic. The Arctic has never been totally immune to change, but in recent years, nations have recognized that the Arctic is emerging from its relative isolation and will be influenced by broader, global trends. Among other forces, climate change is increasing worldwide interest in the Arctic, where the physical impacts of this change are being felt sooner and more intensely than in many other areas. Parts of the Arctic Ocean have experienced intense declines and variability in sea ice thickness and multiyear ice coverage. In addition, surface temperature increases in the region, amplified by ice-albedo feedback, have impacted ice sheet and glacier mass, spring snow cover, and characteristics of seasonally frozen ground. Here in Canada, numerous studies have illuminated the effects of rising surface temperatures on the cryosphere and reported on more frequent and extreme weather and erosion events, which are causing pronounced effects on indigenous populations. Some of these impacts are becoming increasingly important for the Arctic geopolitical landscape. Much of my research has focused on the security and safety implications of the Arctics increased maritime accessibility. Changes in sea ice have the potential to enable new and more frequent connections and operating spaces among countries. Some aspects of my research have also considered changes to Arctic land and coasts, as these changes could further open the door to shared international challenges, such as community sustainability and illicit trade.