Work Package 6

Socio-economic opportunities and risks emerging from climate-driven impacts

Work package objectives

Work package 6 aims to:
  1. Test the performance of different harvest control rules in fisheries under varying environmental conditions.
  2. Model optimal oil and gas exploitation strategies under uncertain prices and weather conditions.
  3. Examine how institutions and policies for the management of living marine resources, tourism and petroleum development can cope with very rapid change in ecosystems driven by climate change

Description of work

The work package addresses implications for the European Arctic (and possible cascades in the rest of Europe) of socio-economic changes resulting from major and rapid climate driven changes in ecosystems. Major reductions in sea ice and dramatic changes in geographic distribution of fish stocks are examples of such changes.

The WP addresses fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, and oil and gas exploration.  Critical parameters include impacts of rapid climate change on employment, and income associated with these activities. The WP also examines the politics of tipping points by studying institutional frameworks to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, based on our experience in developing policies for other ecosystems like lakes (Mäler et al 2003, Brock & Starrett 2003, Wagener 2003, Kossioris et al 2008), or coral reefs (Crépin 2007).

The WP will base some of its work on small theoretical dynamic models that combine relevant economic factors with complex ecosystem dynamics. The WP will develop convenient analysis methods for management problems with stochastic drivers and threshold effects and analyse different management opportunities given the probability that alternate scenarios occur (e.g. cross the threshold/don’t cross the threshold).

These models will help highlight the trade offs between mitigation according to the precautionary principle and adaptation strategies and identify general rules to guide adaptive management strategies in a broad sense of the term (.adaptive to changes in relevant indicators to reduce our pressure on ecosystems when certain indicators turn red and adaptive to the new opportunities that open when a threshold is crossed.).

These models could also help highlight the trade offs between quick fixes and policies with more long-term effects. The WP will also examine whether it is possible or not to use price incentives as a management tool (Mäler et al, 2003 showed that this may not always possible in the presence of tipping points).

What is ATP?

Building upon on-going large, integrated projects (THRESHOLDS and DAMOCLES FP6 IPs, and the ARCTOS network) the project Arctic Tipping Points (ATP) will identify the elements of the Arctic marine ecosystem likely to show abrupt changes in response to climate change, and will establish the levels of the corresponding climate drivers inducing regime shift in those tipping elements. In addition, state-of-the-art oceanographic, ecological, fisheries, and economic models will determine the effect of crossing those thresholds for the Arctic marine ecosystems, and the associated risks and opportunities for economic activities dependent on the marine ecosystem of the European Arctic.

ATP will investigate the existence of climate-driven tipping points for key species and ecosystem processes through analyses of available time-series data and coordinated experimental evaluations. These experimental evaluations will be used to validate the thresholds identified from time-series analysis, and to postulate new climate-driven tipping points. Ecosystem models will test these, and help to formulate future trajectories of Arctic marine ecosystems under climate-change scenarios that consider the possibilities of tipping points. Current IPCC scenarios consider ecosystem responses as smooth transitions, but abrupt regime shifts are likely to occur. Knowledge of what levels of warming will be conducive to abrupt changes and when these may be achieved will enable the formulation of strategies and activities to mitigate their impacts, as well as to profit from the opportunities the changes they may bring.

More broadly, ATP aims to raise the attention of policy makers to the possibility of Arctic tipping points at regional and global scales. At the regional scales, ATP shall examine how institutions and policies for the management of living marine resources, tourism and petroleum development would cope with situations of very rapid change in ecosystems driven by climate change. This is an entirely new situation and will severely test the ability of existing institutions to deliver policies that are sustainable over time. ATP aims to support the efforts of institutions in the European Arctic Corridor (EAC) to devise policies and strategies for coping with regime shifts. At global scales, an understanding of tipping points and potential regime shift in the Arctic ecosystem due to various levels of warming must be considered in negotiations toward a new international agreement for climate change regulation, and will be valuable for informing the EU position during these negotiations.