The list of barriers to adaptation was, in many of the breakout room discussions, longer than the list of successful solutions and adaptation innovations.
The fact that more barriers to adaptation were identified in the workshops than solutions (good practices), innovations, or successes, describes the situation well. The barriers start from the problem of lack of knowledge on climate change, and that the climate crisis is not widely accepted as a fact in many parts of the Arctic. Other pressing issues like regional socio-economic development work, or the coronavirus pandemic may have surpassed climate adaptation and mitigation on the agendas of many geographical levels.
It is largely not yet very well known, what kind of changes communities should adapt to, or how. Some successful adaptation practices could also work on both sides of a national border or also across longer distances in the pan-Arctic region, but in many cases, these solutions are not yet known about. This is a challenge that the ACAF project aims to tackle.
On the other hand, it may not be known yet, whether a new adaptive action proves to be a successful and sustainable practice in the longer run, or will it turn out to be maladaptive in the longer run.
Another barrier to adaptation work is the incrementality of the changes and the responses to it. The inhabitants of the Arctic are said to be used to adapting to all kinds of conditions by culture and mindset. While this is a sign of resilience, this perception may also lead to incremental adaptation to the steadily changing conditions, or ad hoc responses to extreme weather events that are understood as unique. In fact, it was stated that “being adaptive” by culture – a typical Arctic feature according to the discussants – can be both a good and a bad thing. Despite “being adaptive” by culture and mindset, eventually comes a point when communities and individuals cannot adapt anymore without proper long-term plans and anticipative actions. Such plans are largely still missing around the Arctic, and adaptation is mostly reactive, rather than proactive.
The primary requirement for planned and proactive adaptation actions is acknowledging that climate induced environmental changes are beyond the normal fluctuations that people are used to tackling with in the past. The changes will be more frequent and stronger. Dealing with some of the changes will require proactive actions related to infrastructure, like flood protection structures, or changes in legislation, or changes in business practices of livelihoods.
In several presentations, different organizations (research institutes, governmental bodies, indigenous organizations, national advisory boards,…) working on climate change adaptation and food security, among other issues, were introduced. Moreover, many presentations dealt with research and monitoring of changes in ecosystems. The contents of these presentations are mostly excluded from this summary except focuses on good practices, but it is possible to learn about these organizations and topics from the ACAF project website, where most presentations are available under country-specific pages: