Strategic Goals 3

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Impact of Arctic Environmental Change
on Society
Strategic Goal3

Research Director:Shin Sugiyama (Hokkaido University)
Research Director : Shin Sugiyama (Hokkaido University)

The Impact of Arctic Environmental Change on Society

The rapid environmental changes in the Arctic region not only increase the risk of natural disasters due to permafrost thaw and increasing glacier discharge, but are also significantly impacting the lives of residents, particularly the traditional lifestyles of indigenous peoples.

On the other hand, warming climate also has some positive aspects for human activity in the Arctic, including easier access to underground/submarine resources and vessel operation across the Arctic ocean. Despite its importance, compared to research into climate and environmental changes, research related to the societal impacts of these changes is still in the early stages.

Against this backdrop, understanding the impact of natural environmental changes in the Arctic on human society is an important and urgent task for the Arctic research community. Such social impacts are wide-ranging including natural disasters, resource use, and impact on livelihoods and traditional culture.

We tackle this complex problem based on research findings and collaborative framework between the natural and social sciences that Japan has obtained through the GRENE-Arctic/ArCS Projects. Furthermore, by utilizing Japan’s strengths in engineering knowledge and technology, our findings lead to proposals for measures to mitigate and respond to these impacts.

In July, sea ice finally leaves the shore of the small town of Qaanaaq in Greenland, where 600 residents await the arrival of the short summer
In July, sea ice finally leaves the shore of the small town of Qaanaaq in Greenland, where 600 residents await the arrival of the short summer.
Photo: Shin Sugiyama (Hokkaido University)

Collaborations among Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and Engineering

In Strategic Goal 3, to address this complex and important task, natural and social scientists work together in collaboration with researchers from the fields of engineering related to sea routes, shipping, waste, and living environment. Specifically,

  • We will build an observation network of the terrestrial environment and ecosystems in Siberia and Alaska, and assess the impact of environmental changes on energy resources and food.
  • Focusing on the Northern Sea Routes, we will develop methods to analyze sea ice conditions and deliver data for ship navigation. Further, we evaluate performance of vessels and assess the impact of oil spill accidents to contribute to safer and more efficient shipping along the Northern Sea Route.
  • We focus on the coastal regions, which serve as an important human habitat as well as a transport hub in the Arctic. The Greenland coast where the melting of the ice sheet and glaciers is particularly prominent, and we perform a detailed study on Greenlandic coastal areas, where the melting of the ice sheet and glaciers is particularly prominent and rapidly changing land, ocean, and atmospheric environment is affecting society.

Researchers from the fields of natural science, engineering, and social science collaborate to obtain a multifaceted understanding and assessment of how society is affected by changes in climate and the natural environment.

For a Sustainable Future in the Arctic

The distinctive feature of Strategic Goal 3 is to expand our deep understanding of changes in the natural environment to broader knowledge of their impact on society. This is an important and challenging endeavor only possible based on the research findings and collaborative base established under the GRENE Arctic and ArCS Projects. We build a new direction of research through the participation of experts from the engineering field. Our aim is to go a step further from understanding the societal impact of environmental changes to proposing ways to mitigate and respond to this impact. For example, providing information for shipping along the Northern Sea Route is the contribution to global economic activity and cultural exchange, including for Japan.

We regard local residents, administration, and government in the study area as key stakeholders. The knowledge obtained by the project will be shared with the stakeholders to propose impact mitigation and response measures with the aim of contributing to a sustainable future for the Arctic region.

Research Programs mainly related to

Human Society

Human Society

Human Security, Energy and Food in the Arctic under Climate Change

Principal Investigator Hiroki Takakura(Tohoku University)

Arctic Sea Routes

Arctic Sea Routes

Sustainable Arctic Sea Routes in a Rapidly Changing Environment

Principal Investigator Akihisa Konno(Kogakuin University)

Coastal Environments

Coastal Environments

Arctic Coastal Change and Its Impact on Society

Principal Investigator Shin Sugiyama(Hokkaido University)