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Changing Arctic

Arctic Research Agency Plan Includes Goals to Improve Alaskans’ Quality of Life, ‘Resiliency’

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A research plan for the peoples of the Arctic …

The U.S. Arctic Research Commission’s plan for the next couple of years will focus mainly on studies and projects to help the people who live in the region and their communities cope with the pressures of rapid change.

“A major focus on resilience has emerged as more and more countries … recognize that the rate of change is speeding up,” said Commission chair Fran Ulmer,” and that to protect people, and investments and buildings and infrastructure and communities, it’s necessary to do a better job of planning.”

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Credit KUAC file photos
U.S. Arctic Research Commission chairwoman Fran Ulmer, left, and Jackie Richter-Menge, a member of the commission.

Ulmer says the six goals outlined in the panel’s biennial report issued last week call for continued research to help communities in the circumpolar north anticipate with climate-change impacts. She says the commission hopes the goals would be “providing mechanisms for decision-makers to do a better job of calculating how these changes in climate may have to be incorporated in how we build buildings, how we build roads, and even where people live.”

Commission member Jackie Richter-Menge says because she’s an engineer, she’ll be especially interested in research to adapt the so-called “built environment” to the warming climate. She’ll also promote research to improve Arctic communities’ energy security through increased use of sustainable energy sources such as wind and geothermal to offset the high cost of fossil fuels. And to ensure the new energy infrastructure also will withstand the changing environment.

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Credit U.S. Arctic Research Commission
The commission's biennial report outlines progress the agency has made over the past two years and sets out six goals it will pursue in 2017-18.

“You’re going to have to build a system that will also be resilient,” Richter-Menge said. That also applies to systems that are needed to deliver clean water and process wastewater, she added.

“All of these goals have the objective of improving the quality of life for the people that are in the Arctic,” Richter-Menge said.

Other commission goals include improving health and food security through research on diseases and contaminants that afflict people and wildlife. And research to help indigenous peoples preserve cultural identity and to combat substance abuse and behavioral-health problems.