The Arctic: Current Issues and Challenges
The importance of the Arctic in many fields of human activity strongly increased over the past decades. The academic scientific research demonstrates a 3-fold increase in the number of journal articles dealing with “Arctic”: from 1,400 in 2000 to 4,200 in 2018. This increase is not fortuitous but certainly stems from double importance of Arctic regions for humanity. The first importance is the role that the Arctic plays in the on-going environmental changes, mostly linked to climate warming and environmental pollution. Here, the first key issues are the Arctic Ocean, ice melt, permafrost thaw, greenhouse gases emission, and organic carbon mobilization from soils to rivers.
From the other hand, highly fragile Arctic ecosystems and biota are strongly affected by environmental pollution, be it organic compounds or toxic metals and radionuclides. The rising concern of humanity to the key role of the Arctic in climate regulation on the planetary scale and the extreme fragility of its ecosystem, biota and native population to on-going environmental change can certainly explain an explosive interest of scientific researchers to the Arctic in connection with ‘climate change’. The second big issue of the Arctic is its eminent role in problems of natural resources. The Artic shelf contains vast amount of hydrocarbons (gas and oil), whereas the terrestrial polar regions, now liberating from ice, may turn out to be highly important sites of future ore industry.
The importance of possibly ice-free Arctic Ocean as future maritime shipping routes will further enhance the accessibility of natural resources in this region. Taken together, this can be the main driving factors of almost exponential increase in the interest to natural resources in the Arctic over past few years. The present book addresses a wide variety of environmental, social and economic issues of the Arctic, in response to rising interest to this region in academic science, sociology and business. The 14 chapters represent state-of-the art reviews written by the experts on problems of native communities, climate change, political issues, implementation of large-scale projects, natural resources and conservation, environmental monitoring and assessment of pollution issues.
The Chapter reveals to the reader a look at the global process of climate change from the perspective of the local population of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous district and adjacent regions. Their destinies, way of life, professional plans and career trajectories unfold against the background of changing natural conditions, shifting seasons, unpredictable ice conditions, the collapsing Soviet and emerging post-Soviet infrastructure being built by new stakeholders. The first section explains the socio-economic, historical, infrastructural and natural linkages between the Arctic and subarctic zones, as well as the need to take into account the zonal changes throughout Western Siberia, as they form a transdisciplinary context of transformations in the Russian Arctic.
The second section shows the scenarios of overcoming the difficulties and adapting to the changing conditions caused by the new wave of development of the North, management decisions and natural disasters occurring during the life of the last two generations of the northerners. What is more important for survival in the Arctic: the ability to survive autonomously, using local knowledge and skills, community resources, or the bet made on the operational supply and close, intensive transport and informational links in the Arctic?
The third section raises the question of whether there are serious climate changes (that can be seen thanks to the research of landscapes, the state of permafrost, water resources, soils, ecosystems, ecology of regions), from the perspective of local residents, leading the economy and working in the far North? How do they feel them and what aspects of daily life are affected by climate change? The Chapter is based on empirical research on the territory of the Yamal and Khanty-Mansiysk district (Yugra) and northern part of Tomsk region, the corpus of interviews and observations.