Climate justice is an emerging and increasingly relevant field in Arctic research as the region undergoes rapid physical and socio-economic change because of climate change. Recently, the Centre for Climate Justice hosted a webinar on charting a way for climate justice research in the Arctic.
The webinar brought together three University of the Arctic (UArctic) institutions to give presentations on some of the latest social science research in the Arctic. The aim of the event was to show the diversity of social science research in the Arctic, as well as spark ideas for research collaboration with climate justice at its heart.
Roughly 100 attendees came from Arctic nations (e.g. Norway, USA, Russia, Canada, Sweden) and many more from outside the Arctic (e.g. UK, Germany, Cameroon, Philippines, New Zealand, among others). The huge interest in this webinar is a testament to the global relevance and interest in Arctic research.
As part of a submission to the Arctic Yearbook, I gave an overview of salient social science topics that have emerged in Arctic research on climate change and invited attendees to contribute their views on the direction of future research. Climate change is expected to cause significant social challenges in the Arctic – and this sparked a large body of research on adaptation and Indigenous communities, but more and more studies are emerging on mitigation, security, health, and governance. However, social science research remains fragmented across a few countries, and few studies use an equity-centred approach to climate change issues. Climate justice offers a transformative view for climate action by critically analysing social inequality as a factor undermining mitigation and adaptation efforts.
Professor Kristie L. Ebi from the Center for Health and the Global Environment (University of Washington) provided a fascinating first-look at her recent research on detection and attribution as a powerful set of analytic methods to quantify the impacts of climate change on health. These methods are beginning to be applied to health; detection and attribution can be applied to some of the extreme events being experienced in the Arctic to quantify the current impacts of climate change. The use of detection and attribution is useful for policymaking and advocacy.
Professor Kamrul Hossain from the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law (University of Lapland) provided an-in-depth look at the concept of human security as an analytical tool to identify specific threats arising out of the consequences of climate change. Aspects of human security contribute to climate injustices, particularly among Indigenous communities. Human security threats are one-way or another linked to the disproportionate impacts of climate change affecting lives, livelihoods and identity of Indigenous peoples.
A key outcome of the event is the contribution of the attendees to setting an agenda for climate justice research in the Arctic. There was a strong sense among attendees that there is a need for more international collaboration, and interdisciplinary research between physical and social sciences in the Arctic. There were several research areas highlighted as being particularly important:
- The role of Indigenous communities in research
- Participatory adaptation
- Intersectionality and climate action
- Indigenous communities and cultural loss
- Climate migration
- Gender and climate justice
- Social and political implications of geo-engineering
- Health and wellbeing (physical and mental)
- Climate and human security
- Environmental law
- Trade, tourism and sustainable development
The Centre for Climate Justice is the lead partner of the UArctic Thematic Network on Climate Justice in the Arctic, and one of our goals is to facilitate networking and research collaborations. Networking online and during lockdown is a challenge, but attendees to this event are connecting with each other via the Centre. We hope to keep these conservations going on well into the future.
Climate justice is an emerging research agenda in the Arctic and one that is vital for researchers to engage with if climate action is to effectively understand and address the social impacts of environmental change in the Arctic. You can join the conservation by following our social media platforms for the latest events and opportunities – and getting involved with the UArctic Thematic Network on Climate Justice in the Arctic.
Dr Sennan D. Mattar
Overview slides can be found here, a recording of Professor Hossain’s presentation on human security is available to view from here, and more webinars on climate change and health can be found on Adaptation Futures 2020’s website here.