The Arctic Forum 2012 convened on 1 May in Washington DC, bringing together a diverse group of scientists, decision makers, and stakeholders to advance dialogue on several key arctic science issues. The forum was sponsored by ARCUS, with funding from the NSF's Arctic Science Division (for scientific speakers) and the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, and was part of the American Geophysical Union's (AGU) Science Policy Conference 2012.

The AGU Science Policy Conference focused on science that helps inform decision making related to natural hazards, natural resources, oceans, and the Arctic. The conference's opening plenary session featured an arctic focus with talks on the historical context of U.S. Arctic Science Policy from ARCUS Board President, Vera Alexander; a perspective on how scientific research can help improve decision making related to oil and gas resources in the Arctic from Fran Ulmer, Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission; and a discussion of how applied science informs resource management decisions in a changing Arctic by Alan Thornhill, Chief Environmental Officer, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, U.S. Department of the Interior. After the plenary session, the conference convened concurrent tracks, one of which was the Arctic Forum.

The Arctic Forum was organized into three sessions, each of which included presentations from a panel of topic experts followed by discussion with the audience. The first session was titled "Changing Arctic Ecosystems" and highlights of the discussion included:

  • Recent data indicates that warming in the Arctic is not homogenous. Novel ecosystems have emerged in the Eurasian Arctic, in which tundra shrub communities have transformed to stands of trees within the past 30 years.

  • Discussion of the impacts of environmental change on the Alaskan community of Newtok, where severe coastal erosion has decimated infrastructure, forcing residents to abandon its current location and move the village to a new site.

The second session of the Arctic Forum was "Energy Development in the Arctic" and focused on national and international issues related to oil, natural gas, coal, and methane hydrate in the Arctic. Panelists discussed how climate change and transformations in the economic and cultural fabric of arctic communities have created new challenges for developing public policy. Discussion also touched on the international geopolitics of arctic resource development in countries such as China.

In session three, titled "Governance and Security in the Arctic," panelists discussed military, geopolitical, and legal implications of international interest in the Arctic, which has increased as a result of climate change. The panel presentations covered topics such as:

  • The consequences of declining sea ice cover, including increasing impacts from storm surges;
  • International policy issues raised by the opening of the arctic seaways;
  • Russia's coastal security strategy and its implications for other arctic nations;
  • Emerging international security issues facing arctic nations;
  • The impact of U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea treaty; and
  • The need for international relations to be based on finding common interests.

Governance and Security in the Arctic Panel
Governance and Security in the Arctic Panel (from left): Bob Corell, Global Environment and Technology Foundations; Heather Conley, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Caitlyn Antrim, Rule of Law Committee for the Oceans; Rear Admiral David Titley, Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy; and Rob Hubert, University of Calgary. Photo courtesy of ARCUS.

The success of the Arctic Forum 2012 was reflected in the depth of audience participation following each of the three sessions, with active discussion among resource managers, the press, legislators and their staff, and members of the public.

For further information about the Arctic Forum 2012, including a list of panel speakers and web links to abbreviated biographies, please see the Science Policy Conference 2012 Program Agenda.