Climate adaptation practices from different parts of the Arctic
Seven bilateral webinars were organized by the ACAF project in spring and summer 2021 around the themes of climate adaptation and food security. The purpose of the webinars was to promote international networking between experts in climate adaptation and food security and to learn about and collect good climate adaptation practices from different parts of the Arctic.
Altogether over 170 participants joined the seven webinars. The program of each event consisted of introductory presentations from the country visited and from Finland, followed by breakout room discussions on relevant topics according to the wishes of the participants, and a summarizing discussion in the end.
From the presentations and breakout room discussions, here a summary of good adaptation practices from different parts of the Arctic is provided. While adaptation is essentially local and regional by nature, and adaptation work is in many cases still in the early stages, some good practices from across the Arctic can be identified and possibly applied in other parts of the Arctic.
Barriers to adaptation
In the breakout room discussions at the bilateral webinars, barriers to adaptation in the Arctic were gathered. The main types of barriers to adaptation identified were:
- Lack of knowledge or awareness on climate change and adaptation to it; focus on other issues than climate change and adaptation to it; and the perception that the changes can be adapted to without any special measures, based on existing knowledge and skills
- Governance: Lack of proactive adaptation based on adaptation plans; short planning horizons; existing adaptation work is reactive by nature
- Livelihood or sector specific barriers to adaptation
Good adaptation practices
The following good adaptation practices follow loosely the classification of the barriers of adaptation, as an attempt to list suggested and currently used solutions from across the Arctic region to the problems.
1) Ways to increase knowledge on climate change and adaptation and the knowledge base for adaptation actions
The first group of barriers to adaptation identified in the webinars was the lack of knowledge or awareness on climate change and adaptation to it. You cannot have planned adaptation without knowledge on the expected future changes in your region on relevant time scales. Here, a number of suggested solutions for increasing awareness on climate change in the first place and ways of providing information about climate change, such as climate projections, for different decision-making processes, are introduced.
Visualization of climate change
To tackle the problems of lack of awareness on climate change, one successful solution on communicating about climate change and how it can already be seen in the nature. More information about the project and the awarded film are available at www.climatevis.com.
Several climate services were presented in the webinars. According to WMO (2013) and the European Commission’s Roadmap to Climate Services (2015), climate services refer to a diverse variety of ways to provide relevant climate and climate change related information to end-users in user-friendly ways to assist their decision-making.
In the webinars, three climate services co-designed in the large international Blue-Action: Arctic Impact on Weather and Climate (2016-2021) EU Horizon 2020 funded project were presented. The three climate services are quite different from each other, but they provide relevant climate information to support decision-making: on snowmaking conditions for ski resorts; on the location of fish stocks for marine fisheries in the Atlantic; and for strategic foresight in Yamal for regional adaptation. More information about the climate services: www.blue-action.eu
Map based solutions
One way to visualize, gather and distribute climate change and adaptation related information are map-based solutions.
- USGS has an interactive map on adaptation plans in Alaska. (Currently no link available)
- ArcticHubs project has utilized Public Participatory GIS (PPGIS) tools like Maptionnaire to investigate e.g. overlapping land-use interests by different nature-based livelihoods that can hinder adaptation to climate change. Putting these interests, concerns and wishes on map can help e.g. land-use planners in the future.
- LEO Network and the related website is based on a group of local observers and experts who share knowledge about unusual events concerning animals, weather, and the environment. By sharing observations it’s possible to raise awareness and engage with topic experts to learn more about your nature observations. Each observation is reviewed by the editorial team of the LEO Network.
One of the successful ways of engaging the public into positive, personal climate mitigation and adaptation work and for increasing awareness on climate change is citizen science. Moreover, participants of citizen science projects improve their science literacy, gain better understanding of environmental that affect them directly.
Several approaches to citizen science were presented in the webinars. For instance, in Finland, citizens participate in data collection on berry yield monitoring. In this, the use of mobile devices and the website marjahavainnot.fi as the platform have proven a good practice.
2) Good practices for making proactive adaptation plans
The focus in the bilateral workshops was more on practical and local or regional level adaptation actions rather than on governance aspects, but also governance related aspects were addressed in many presentations and in the breakout room discussions. While governance structures vary a lot between Arctic countries, there are some good governance related practices that can be shared.
- ClimeFish climate adaptation plan guide is intended for fisheries and aquaculture in the Arctic and beyond. An introduction to the ClimeFish Project. More information here.
- The Expert council on Climate Adaptation in Sweden (Nationella Expertrådet för Klimatanpassning) More information here in Swedish.
- In Russia, the national adaptation strategy requires regional and sectoral strategies to be developed in 2021 and 2022.
- The Barents Euro-Arctic Council has promoted regional climate change strategies to all member regions since 2013. More information: Update of the action plan on climate change for the Barents Cooperation. Presentation by Henna Haapala: Barents cooperation on climate change
A recent publication commissioned by the ACAF project and the “Climate resilience with Baltic Sea co-operation – Flood and Drought Risk Management” project of the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment of Southwest Finland. on climate adaptation governance collected and synthesized information about climate adaptation policy and governance in Arctic and Baltic Sea countries. The report lists several best practices identified from the countries studied and offers recommendations.
3) Adaptation practices specific for Arctic livelihoods
A set of good adaptation practices related to Arctic livelihoods were introduced and discussed. This section introduces adaptation practices related to reindeer herding, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, and forestry. While some food security viewpoints are addressed also under livelihood specific headlines, the chapter ends with a view to food security issues.
In reindeer herding, supplementary feeding has been a key adaptation practice already since 1970s-1980s. Supplementary feeding in reindeer management has successfully helped buffer against mortality in Nordic reindeer herding. However, supplementary feeding is expensive and has implications for reindeer behavior and survival instincts according to the herders.
As reindeer roam free in the reindeer herding cooperative’s lands, they are susceptible to the elements, particularly snow conditions. Due to climate change, rain-on-snow events will become more frequent. While reindeer can smell lichen from under the snow, they cannot smell the food through layers of ice, and they cannot dig food through thick icy layers.
In search for food, reindeer roam on larger areas than before. As this involves crossing of major motorways and railway tracks, this increases the risk of accidents where reindeer may die. “Renoducts” introduced in Sweden provide safe crossing for reindeer to new pastures. More information here.
Fisheries and aquaculture
Climate change and warming oceans push fish species northwards. Adaptation measures to this include the use of robust fishing vessels and the development of suitable fishing gear. As new fish species emerge, increased marketing effort is needed. As some fish species decrease, agreements are needed to prevent overfishing. www.climefish.eu
Also, fishers can benefit from a climate service that gives forecast on the location of fish. www.blue-action.eu
Due to warming, fish grow faster and mature earlier. Regulation of fishing gear can help avoid catching immature fish. The warming waters can cause problems for aquaculture on fish species such as salmon, if it’s not possible to move the fish farms northwards. www.climefish.eu
Inuit communities respond to the changes in fishing by community-level adaptive strategies such as diversification like co-existing fisheries and country food and modern technology like Internet-based social media and GPS. Co-management approaches for fisheries governance include partnerships and sharing of power and responsibilities. Besides Inuit owned institutions, also Inuit worldviews like a culture of sharing and collaborating, and indigenous and local knowledge systems are helpful in this. More information here.
In Arctic tourism, the importance of adaptation is increasing, and it is intertwined with mitigation measures.
Snow reliability is increasingly posing challenges for winter tourism in the Arctic, particularly in the early season. In winter tourism, particularly ski tourism, snowmaking has become a widely used strategy to adapt to the increased uncertainty on snow conditions particularly in the early season. The climate service for ski resorts for forecast on snowmaking conditions was introduced earlier in the chapter on climate services. More information: https://projects.luke.fi/arctichubs/ and www.blue-action.eu
The Nordic Snow Cluster is a regional and national innovation environment for sports, outdoor and tourism in Östersund and Åre, Sweden, with focus on winter. The cluster coordinates efforts around snow research and improves the readiness to solve national and international challenges. More information: https://www.peakinnovation.se/
Some of the suggested good practices stemmed from the pandemic: several virtual tourism related solutions were suggested. They may also help with reducing GHG emissions in tourism, so virtual solutions can also be interpreted as adaptive actions to the need to reduce the carbon footprint of travelling.
Some adaptation solutions presented concerning forests and forestry were related to decarbonization of transition to green economy, which would count as adaptation to mitigation, and some good practices related to adaptation to the changing climatic conditions.
Warmer conditions can cause outbreaks of beetles in logs that await transportation in the forests. By covering the piles with snow, the problem can be mitigated. More information here.
Forest bioeconomy is very important for the decarbonization of Arctic economies, for instance in Russia. Solutions for transition to green economy within the forestry sector include the development of biofuels (pellets, woodships and briquettes). Moreover, bio-charcoal can be produced from wood waste. Wood biomass can also be turned into liquid biofuels, which can help reduce emissions from transport. Gaseous biofuels could substitute fossil gas. Wood can be used also as material for tangible items, such as wood-based textiles and bioplastics and wood-based chemicals. Wooden buildings and construction materials can help avoid emissions up to 63 MtCO2/hear by 2050 in Russia alone. New wood-based materials are developed also in the USA and in many other countries.
More information: Leskinen, P., Lindner, M., Verkerk, P.J., Nabuurs, G.J., Van Brusselen, J., Kulikova, E., Hassegawa, M. and Lerink, B. (eds.). 2020. Russian forests and climate change. What Science Can Tell Us. 11. European Forest Institute.
Forests are not merely for wood and materials production, but they are important operating environments for many other livelihoods, too, including reindeer herding and nature-based tourism. In the ArcticHubs project, Unmanned Forestry Machines are developed for building productive relationships amongst different forest users. More information here.
Food security was one of the key and overarching themes of the entire workshop series. While particularly in Iceland, Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Norway, a lot of attention was given to fisheries and aquaculture in this regard, in the more terrestrial Arctic countries also other types of food production like agriculture, gardening, and reindeer herding (meat production) were introduced. Fisheries and aquaculture, and reindeer herding, related good practices have been introduced in the earlier chapters.
In remote indigenous communities in Canada, community gardening utilizing regionally suitable techniques has been introduced as a way to improve and support food security. More information here.
Moreover, the Territorial Agrifood Association in NWT, Canada, and the Intertribal Agriculture Council in Alaska, the USA support locally produced and indigenous foods. More information here: Territorial Agrifood Association. Presentation on Subarctic Gardening in Remote Indigenous Communities, Intertribal Agriculture Council and more information here.