The polar retrospective – Global context of Arctic events | Polarjournal
The “polar retrospective” summarizes events around the Arctic and Antarctic from the previous week and focuses on one or more specific polar aspects. This time, we focus on Arctic events and their global connections.

Every day we provide information about the Arctic and Antarctic, which are often connected directly or indirectly. However, due to the volume of information, it can be easy to lose track. That’s why we now provide a “polar retrospective” every Monday morning, summarizing the previous week’s events in the polar regions and focusing on one or more specific aspects

A new flag is now flying in front of the NATO headquarters. With Sweden becoming the 32nd member of NATO, another Arctic nation has joined the North Atlantic defense alliance. This could also have an impact on the Arctic Council. (Photo: Nato)

Last week, the Arctic was once again at the center of media attention. From a global perspective, the accession of Sweden, an Arctic nation, to NATO made the headlines. Another member of the Arctic Council has now officially joined the North Atlantic defense alliance, bringing the number of Arctic NATO members to seven. Russia, which according to official Kremlin statements feels threatened by Nato, is unlikely to like this accession. After all, seven Nato members now sit opposite Russia in the Arctic Council, the most important body for Arctic matters. Officially, the two organizations are not related, but politically the whole thing is nonetheless explosive.

After lengthy negotiations, the Arctic Council states have agreed that dialog between Russia and the other members should be resumed at working group level, making direct meetings on a virtual level possible again in order to move projects forward. Picture: Arctic Council

Almost at the same time as Arctic Council member Sweden joined NATO, the Arctic Council announced that it had agreed to resume virtual meetings within the Council’s working groups. This should de facto improve the functioning of the Council and its projects. At the same time, however, the Council does not really have a quorum, since there continues to exist freezing conditions at the highest political level, which are unlikely to thaw with Sweden’s accession to NATO.

What’s more, NATO has been conducting its large-scale “Nordic Response 2024” exercise in northern Norway, right on Russia’s doorstep, since last Thursday to simulate under Arctic conditions a worst-case scenario of a combined attack on a NATO partner. This exercise is just one of many being carried out by NATO in parts of Europe as part of the “Steadfast Defender” series. Experts see this as a clear message to Russia, which has carried out several maneuvers in its Arctic territory in recent weeks and months. As mentioned, none of this is likely to favor the work of the Arctic Council at the higher levels.

Climate change is leading to stronger and more frequent extreme meteorological events, which can be better predicted thanks to new research findings. However, measures must be taken to protect the population. And with a blocked Arctic Council, this creates difficulties. (Photo: Michael Wenger)

However, a functioning council would be particularly important for the population of the Arctic regions, around four million people. Coordinated measures can be adopted there to mitigate the effects of climate change there. These include extreme weather events such as the large temperature fluctuations that are currently being measured around the Arctic or the massive amounts of snow that are causing damage to infrastructure in some parts of the Arctic.

Better coordination of research and its results, which is being carried out in the Council’s working groups, will also benefit those of us living further south. Some of the extreme weather events that affect people here have their origins in the Arctic regions and the melting of sea ice. Understanding the processes there will enable models to improve the predictions for extreme events and thus allow protective measures to be taken that could result in a reduction in damage and the number of victims.

This in turn has a positive effect on the economy, both here and in the Arctic. A study recently showed the economic benefits of Antarctica. It should therefore be clear that there is also a high economic value for the Arctic. Investments not only create economic added value for companies and investors, but also ensure better living conditions due to modern infrastructure and allow indigenous people in particular to gain new perspectives, combine their traditional ways of life with a modern lifestyle and at the same time contribute their knowledge and culture, which is thousands of years old, in order to manage the changes.

Thus, last week shows very clearly that the wealth of information and articles that have appeared here and on all the other platforms are not just individual events, but are connected to each other and tell a whole story.

Dr. Michael Wenger, Polar Journal

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