A Local Perspective on the Future of the Arctic
By Christin Kristoffersen, former mayor of Longyearbyen, in the islands of Svalbard, the northernmost permanently populated location in the world.
Arctic communities are facing the direct impacts of climate change in unique ways — retracting sea ice, increased marine shipping and tourism, thawing permafrost and coastal erosion, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and loss of biodiversity.
Models already indicate that climate change will change the timing and magnitude of spring melting, resulting in “ice jam” flooding in communities. In addition to the people within the community, this shift will impact on fish resources and biodiversity.
Environmental changes are coupled with human-made phenomena such as globalization, urbanization, social inequality, and a lack of modern infrastructure and essential services and the new economic opportunities that often accompany them. Increased transportation and more infrastructure will affect indigenous peoples in remote communities and their use of frozen lakes and rivers as routes to traditional hunting, fishing and trapping areas or for accessing larger human settlements.