Climate-Fragility Risk Brief: The Arctic

Climate-Fragility Risk Brief: The Arctic
Maddox, Marisol 2021: Climate-Fragility Risk Brief: The Arctic. Berlin: adelphi.

With parts of Russia and the Pacific Northwest experiencing record-breaking heat waves this summer, the environmental impacts of climate change in the far north have again become devastatingly clear. However, the risks associated with climate change in northern latitudes go far beyond local environmental impacts to have consequences for the entire planet. 

The Arctic is experiencing climate change three times faster than the global rate of change. Multiple climate tipping points, such as destabilization of the Greenland ice sheet, severe permafrost thaw and the collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) or Gulf Stream, would have drastic consequences worldwide. Human-induced warming in the Arctic has already been linked to a weaker West African monsoon, resulting in lower rainfall in the Sahel, as well as to increased snowfall in Central Europe and the possibility of decades-long mega droughts.

The accelerated rate of warming in the Arctic also creates risks to human security and the geopolitical environment. China is seeking to assert influence in the Arctic, while both Russia and NATO increase military activities and capabilities in the region. Increased economic activity comes with a growing risk of transnational crime, all while governance and disaster response mechanisms lag behind the fast-changing reality. Demographic shifts in Arctic countries will require safe and sanctioned migration opportunities to realize new opportunities for economic growth, all while indigenous communities face existential threats to their livelihoods and identities.

To address these risks, this CSEN Risk Brief identifies ten entry points for action, including:

  1. Urgent global action to catalyze emissions reduction efforts and increase carbon sequestration, primarily through nature-based solutions and in line with the precautionary principle.
  2. Increased international cooperation in order to: promote military-to-military dialogue, identify and fill governance gaps, increase scientific cooperation, and uphold integrity to support sustainable development.
  3. Flexible policy making and localized solutions that recognize the unpredictability of climate change impacts and the heterogenous nature of Arctic communities, and which also involve indigenous communities in research and policy development.

For a full list of entry points, please see the Risk Brief and the accompanying Factsheet.