Many things are changing in the Arctic
We need information on the impact of the changes
As the future of the Arctic is so uncertain, high-quality research on the region is essential. Climate change is progressing faster in the Arctic than in other regions. What are its long-term effects? Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine has eliminated it from research collaboration. However, Russia is a major player in the Arctic. Under what conditions could we still co-operate with the Russians?
‘Climate change can already be seen in everyday life in the Arctic. Many animals and plants from further south are moving north and changing the biodiversity of the region. We need to model our future on scientific knowledge: this will provide us with information on how global warming will affect the environment, livelihoods, and populations. However, we also need information on the impact of the changes at the community, municipal and regional levels’, says Henna Haapala, Senior Ministerial Adviser at the Ministry of the Environment. She is also a member of the Arctic Interactions (ARCI) programme’s social advisory group.
Arctic co-operation has become familiar to Haapala through her work, as she has participated in activities of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and the Arctic Council.
More to learn from the experiences of the South
Due to its military operations, Russia has been sidelined from international research collaboration. According to Haapala, this must not cause research in the Arctic to end or collaboration between other countries to decrease. No one knows how long Russia will continue its military operations. But when it comes to climate change and preparing for it, we have no time to waste.
‘The changes in the climate and in nature in southern Finland are making their way further north. Research on these changes will provide us with information on what to expect in the north as well. The climate is warming up, making winters shorter, with less snow. I’m originally from Oulu and would never have believed that one day we’d be worrying that Christmas would not be white. In the south, people are already starting to get used to snowless Christmases, even though it’s not nice’, Haapala concretely portrays the change.
Where does the Arctic begin?
There is no single border to or definition of the Arctic. Quite often, the border is considered to be the Northern Arctic Circle. However, this leaves Iceland and much of Alaska outside the region.
‘International discourse has mystified the Arctic too much. Its nature and conditions make the region fascinating, but the people who live there are ordinary, and lead normal lives. Animals and plants have adapted to the cold and barrenness. However, in the Arctic, barren doesn’t mean ugly’, Haapala reminds us.
Reliable information for decision-makers
According to Haapala, one of the key objectives of Arctic research should be to produce information for both decision-makers and citizens in a form that they understand. Expert and research groups produce a great deal of scientific material, but decision-makers' time is limited.
‘Reviews and easy-to-internalise summaries on Arctic climate change, the state of nature and pollution – these are all vital. But no one has time to wade through all the research results and entire research reports. The Summary for Policy Makers should be emphasised when studies are published’, says Haapala. At the same time, she admits that she herself spends a lot of time reading these summaries.
Haapala finds it inspiring to be part of the ArcI social advisory group and to engage in discussions with researchers from several different disciplines.
‘I learn a lot of new information for myself and have opportunities to talk to experts. At the same time, I get to share my own knowledge with others. The studies conducted and coordinated by ArcI can help us find solutions to both present and future problems’, she concludes.
Photos: Henna Haapala, Kerstin Wieber-Bucholz Pixabay & Jouko Inkeröinen