Interests are awakening globally to take advantage of the extensive energy, shipping, fishing, and tourism opportunities associated with diminishing sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. These environmental state-changes are generating risks of political, economic, and cultural instabilities that will affect societies at all levels—from local to international.
In response, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded funding to a collaborative program called Arctic Options: Holistic Integration for Arctic Coastal-Marine Sustainability to be implemented by UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. Arctic Options will address such critical Arctic issues as sustainable development and environmental protection. The three-year project will develop and demonstrate a process to enhance practices of governance for sustainability in Arctic coastal-marine systems, balancing national interests and common interests, public interests and private interests, environmental protection, social equity, and economic prosperity with the needs of present and future generations.
The project will involve marine spatial planning on a pan-Arctic scale, while also focusing more specifically on three coastal-marine areas: Bering Strait-Chukchi and Beaufort Seas (United States, Russia and Canada), West Greenland (Denmark/Greenland and Canada) and the High Seas of the Arctic Ocean. These three regional hotspots have transboundary issues, impacts, or resources that are of special interest to Arctic stakeholders (states and indigenous peoples) as well as various corporations and NGOs (e.g., commercial shippers, oil and gas developers, fishing companies, tour ship operators, organizations protecting biodiversity). Governance is a high priority but is hampered by fragmented coastal-state jurisdiction and international governance arrangements that are not adequate to ensure sustainable development. “Arctic Options will use integrated datasets and scenarios as tools to help in designing innovative governance systems for these areas,” says Oran Young, professor emeritus at the Bren School.
“Arctic Options is an inclusive international collaboration,” said Frank Davis, director of NCEAS. “Our mission is to help advance interdisciplinary collaborative synthesis research, so we will bring our expertise in large-scale data analysis and informatics, as well as the logistical support and meeting facilities required by the Arctic Options team.”
UCSB News Release