Regional scenarios of the Arctic futures: A review

Erokhin, D. & Rovenskaya, E. ORCID: (2020). Regional scenarios of the Arctic futures: A review. IIASA Working Paper. Laxenburg, Austria: WP-20-013

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The future of the Arctic region is a subject of heated debates in both scientific and policy circles. The region has an enormous economic potential as a storehouse of mineral resources and as a provider of shorter and more cost-effective transportation between Europe and Asia. The Arctic is therefore an essential strategic element of the domestic and foreign policies of all Arctic states. In addition, there is an increasing economic interest in the region on the part of non-Arctic states. However, at present, the future of the Arctic region development remains highly uncertain. Scenario building is a suitable methodology to imagine alternative plausible futures of such a complex and multi-dimensional process and to elaborate successful and robust development strategies. This paper provides an overview of the scenario frameworks of Arctic futures presented in the literature and analyses key factors that determine these scenarios. Overall, we find a growing interest of the international foresight research community in the Arctic region that is evident from a number of thorough scenario-building exercises published recently. At the same time, we observe two drawbacks. First, the existing studies lack a numerical element, that is, the overwhelming majority of the scenario frameworks that can be found in the literature are fully qualitative. Quantitative estimates would strengthen the scenario narratives and enrich communication, which make them a useful addition to support a qualitative scenario framework. Second, the existing studies use a mixture of both internal and external factors to describe the underlying uncertainty. This limits the number of factors that can be taken into consideration and may be confusing for a potential user of these scenario frameworks due to the lack of a systemic view. Such a confusion can happen, for example, if some of the external factors underpinning a particular scenario suddenly develop in a direction that was not anticipated within the scenario framework. The effect of such a change on the set of scenarios and the validity of the scenarios despite this change will be of interest to the user, and a clear systems perspective would be conducive to address these questions. Separating internal and external factors in a scenario building exercise is particularly useful given that the volatility of the global geopolitical, geoeconomic and environmental dynamics is only increasing. It is our intention to address these two drawbacks in a scenario building exercise within the “Emerging trade routes between Europe and Asia” scenario-building project led by IIASA within the Northern Dimension Institute (NDI) Think Tank Action co-funded by the European Union and coordinated by Aalto University, Finland.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: Advanced Systems Analysis (ASA)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2020 09:19
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:33

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