The Arctic region research project, called ArCS (Arctic Challenge for Sustainability), is a national flagship project funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR), Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and Hokkaido University are playing the key roles in this project, and will continue to carry it out for approximately four-and-a-half years from September 2015 to March 2020.
The Arctic is the place where climate change appears most conspicuously. As the extent of summer sea ice has been reduced to two-thirds in the last 35 years, climate change has been significantly affecting the Arctic environment and ecosystem. The changes in the Arctic are not only a concern for local people who are directly affected by the change, but also among people who live in the rest of the world, because the Arctic plays a special role in the global climate. On the other hand, with the decrease in sea ice, the possibility of an Arctic passage and new exploitation of natural resources are drawing significant attention around the world, even from non-Arctic countries.
While worldwide attention to changes in the Arctic is growing, the scientific understanding of these changes and the data for analysis are not currently sufficient. This is clearly shown by the fact that sea ice reduction in summer is much faster than the prediction made using models. It is an urgent issue to elucidate how fast the Arctic environment changes, how the Arctic changes affect the climate and the ecosystem globally, and what impact these changes have on human life and economies for both sustainable development and the preservation of the Arctic natural environment.
In addition, due to the rapid increase of traffic using Arctic sea routes and aggressive investment in developing the Arctic sea coast, it is important to accumulate scientific knowledge and secure organized activity worldwide for sustainable development of the Arctic, because its resilience to outer forcing is weak. Based on this scientific knowledge, the discussions on governance and international protocols regarding the activities in the Arctic are expected to become more active in the Arctic Council, United Nations, and academic and economic societies.
Based on these changes in the international situation concerning the Arctic, it is necessary to strengthen scientific research, which can strategically provide appropriate knowledge for political judgment, resolution of Arctic problems and international discussions, to stakeholders such as international organizations, governments, the private sector and NGOs.
Purpose of the project
This project aims to elucidate the changes in the climate and environment, clarify their effects on human society, and provide accurate projections and environmental assessments for internal and external stakeholders so that they can make appropriate decisions on the sustainable development of the Arctic region.
Therefore, in this project, the three organizations of NIPR, JAMSTEC and Hokkaido University, cooperating with other related institutions, are providing effective and important information to stakeholders such as international organizations, domestic and foreign policy makers, and communities of indigenous peoples. This is being done by comprehensively promoting research on climate, weather, ocean environment changes, the material cycle of short-life air pollution materials, and ecosystems and biodiversity, and also by providing a data management system as well as examination from the point of view of the humanities and social sciences.
At the same time, the project maintains a base for international cooperation, carries out a capacity building program including young researchers dispatched to Arctic countries, and dispatches experts to Arctic-related international meetings.