Headline: Understanding the Arctic: New Textbook on Arctic Politics

The new textbook “Internationale Politik und Governance in der Arktis” offers a vivid and detailed overview of the actors, events, and processes that have shaped the governance of the Arctic Region. The textbook was written by IASS researcher Kathrin Stephen, Sebastian Knecht from Freie Universität Berlin and Golo M. Bartsch from the European External Action Service (Brussels).

Climate change is altering the Arctic faster than any other global region.
Climate change is altering the Arctic faster than any other global region. Alfred-Wegener-Institut/Mario Hoppmann (CC-BY 4.0)

The mere mention of the Arctic evokes memories of daring voyages of discovery. Of the race to reach the North Pole, of Thule, the Vikings, whale hunting, and more. But recently, it is human-induced climate change that springs to mind, together with images of melting ice, starving polar bears, and the struggle for control over the region’s fossil-based resources.

This volume will offer casual readers a wealth of information as it explores a broad range of topics and ideas with a level of detail that fosters a nuanced perspective on matters of Arctic policy. More informed readers with a stronger grasp of the Anthropocene and its various effects will also find this volume highly useful. Drawing on the latest research, the authors provide in-depth analyses of historical and recent developments in resource management, environmental, and security issues affecting the Arctic, and an overview of the “Arctic Eight” (the eight states with sovereignty over land and waters within the Arctic Circle) and their interests and views on specific issues along with those of other actors involved in Arctic policy and governance. What political strategies are various states pursuing – and how do their diverse interests shape geopolitics in this region?

Globalisation and climate change are shaping the Anthropocene – and the future of the Arctic

The authors examine the Arctic as a space of complex international relations at the dawn of a new era: the Anthropocene – the age of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems. In future, the authors argue, globalisation and climate change will play a major role in shaping natural and social processes around the world.

And with temperatures in the Arctic rising at twice the average rate of global warming, the Arctic Region provides us with a living laboratory in which we can view current and future trends more clearly. But rather than simply entertaining apocalyptic scenarios, the authors seek to steer the debate in a level-headed direction as they explore, among other phenomena, the so-called “Arctic Paradox”, in which human-induced global warming drives the precipitous melting of the Arctic ice sheet, in turn facilitating access to new oil and gas resources.

How environmental, climate, and economic policymakers will respond to this challenge remains to be seen. Equally uncertain is how these developments will affect the future of the Arctic governance regime. This highly readable volume makes a strong case for social scientific and interdisciplinary research into Arctic issues in order to provide evidence-based knowledge that will support the protection of this unique region.

Kathrin Stephen, Sebastian Knecht, Golo M. Bartsch: “Internationale Politik und Governance in der Arktis: Eine Einführung”, 181 pages, Springer Spektrum, ISBN 978-3-662-57420-1, available from late August 2018, softcover edition, €29.99 (D) / €30.83 (A). Currently available in e-book formats €22.99 (D) / €22.99 (A).