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Published: 2023-12-19 Updated: 2023-12-22, 09:26

Urgency for the Arctic - Science and Research is Crucial

NEWS The effects of climate change in the polar regions have become a pressing issue on the international agenda. The climate crisis demands expertise and knowledge, and recently, the Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian embassies in London organized an event in collaboration with the international cooperation body, the University of the Arctic, UArctic, titled "The Arctic Urgency.” Umeå University was well represented at the event.

The University of the Arctic, UArctic, is an international cooperative body for the Arctic region, consisting of universities, colleges, research institutes, and other organizations interested in disseminating research and education in the region. UArctic currently holds a respected position and provides valuable insights from climate research at its member universities, including Umeå University. Umeå University's activities at the Arctic Centre, Climate Impacts Research Centre, and Várdduo – Centre for Sami Research all contribute to this.

Keith Larson, director of the Arctic Centre at Umeå University, participated as one of the panelists. The event occurred at the Embassy of Finland in the United Kingdom and brought together sixty guests from various universities, research institutes, embassies, and the British government. The event focused on solution-oriented research for the Arctic, with discussions on research excellence, funding, and international cooperation.

Finnish Ambassador Jukka Siukosarri emphasized in his opening address:

"If we lose the Arctic, we lose the world."

Much of what emerged at the event confirmed what researchers already know. The climate situation is exceptionally critical, especially in the Arctic, where the effects are more severe and fundamentally impact the environment. Therefore, research must be focused on finding solutions. Researchers are familiar with many of the problems, and it's no longer sufficient to merely describe them. Climate action is necessary if we want to reduce the effects, necessitating collaboration within the university and with external partners beyond academia.

According to Keith Larson, global climate models, which form the basis for political decisions, do not necessarily consider Arctic ecosystems. These Arctic ecosystems rather contribute to additional greenhouse gases driven by human-induced warming, such as thawing permafrost. Even if we stop greenhouse gas emissions, these feedback mechanisms will continue to warm the planet for a long time.

Another point raised was that indigenous peoples often do not participate in decision-making processes today. The Sami people are not the driving force behind climate change, yet they are profoundly affected.

"Every action is a double burden for indigenous peoples," said Åsa Larsson Blind, vice-chair of the Saami Council. "We need to manage the consequences in addition to the efforts. And who gets to decide? Indigenous peoples are still not part of the discussions and the prioritization of what needs to be done."

Åsa Larsson Blind also noted that all processes and difficult decisions must include indigenous peoples from the outset, emphasizing the need for free, prior, and informed consent, not just their involvement somewhere along the way.

"Without that, we have no choice but to say no."

The event highlighted Umeå University's pivotal role in both national and international Arctic matters. The Arctic Centre at Umeå University serves as a hub for interdisciplinary Arctic research across the four faculties and civil society. The university is home to the renowned Centre for Sami Studies and Research, Várdduo - Centre for Sami Research. Together with the Climate Impacts Research Centre and other prominent research centers, Umeå University possesses a solid foundation to address the challenges associated with the societal transition often referred to as the "green transition."


Keith Larson
Other position, project coordinator