Braaten attends conference on changes facing the Arctic


By Ashley Thompson
Winter 2010

The opening up of the Arctic Ocean brings with it a flood of concerns and debates over social, economic and territorial arrangements in Arctic regions. While climate change is the reason for this alarming loss of ice, it is merely the tip of the iceberg of complex issues facing this region in transition.

On Sept. 11, Dr. David Braaten, CReSIS deputy director, along with 51 other participants from 10 countries, gathered in Quebec City for a three-day Ditchley Foundation conference entitled, “The Arctic Region in the 21st Century.” Members of the Arctic Council, representatives of indigenous people, policymakers, and scientists met to discuss the implication of Arctic climate change in all its complexities, and the effects these changes are having on northern peoples.

Dr. Braaten participated in the working group, “Economic Opportunities and the Environment.” Conference attendees were divided into three working groups, with the two others being “Governance and Security,” and “Law and International Context.”

“There definitely are economic opportunities for indigenous people as a result of the changing climate,” Braaten said, highlighting that while these disruptions to native lifestyles certainly aren’t preferred or welcome, they require an optimistic approach to mitigation.

“Because they’re happening. It’s inevitable,” Braaten said.

Braaten’s and other scientists’ role was to comment on the scientific reality of what is happening to Arctic ice, and changes that can be expected in the future. One thing he emphasized was the need for more collaborative research.

“What is clear is that we don’t have all the answers yet, and continued research has to be a part of this situation. Countries outside the Arctic nations can contribute in that way,” Braaten said.

For countries within the Arctic, debates regarding ownership and accessibility continue. And as the scientific community focuses squarely on the Arctic for answers about our changing climate, those who call the Arctic home hope for more involvement in the decision-making of issues such as regional mineral extraction, tourism, as well as the scientific research itself.

“We do have a responsibility to involve them in our research, and help them build local expertise. And indigenous peoples, too, have a lot to offer the scientists with their unique insight on the environment.”

The Ditchley Foundation was founded in England in1958, aiming to advance international learning and to foster transatlantic discussions of issues of global concern.