Scenarios to prioritize observing activities on the North Slope, Alaska in the context of resource development, climate change and socio-economic uncertainties

Friday, 19 December 2014
Olivia Astillero Lee1, Hajo Eicken1, John F Payne2 and Dennis Lassuy2, (1)University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute, Fairbanks, AK, United States, (2)North Slope Science Initiative, Anchorage, AK, United States
The North Slope of Alaska is experiencing rapid changes in response to interacting climate and socioeconomic drivers. The North Slope Science Initiative (NSSI) is using scenarios as a tool to identify plausible, spatially explicit future states of resource extraction activities on the North Slope and adjacent seas through the year 2040. The objective of the scenarios process is to strategically assess research and monitoring needs on the North Slope. The participatory scenarios process involved stakeholder input (including Federal, State, local, academic, industry and non-profit representatives) to identify key drivers of change related to resource extraction activities on the North Slope. While climate change was identified as a key driver in the biophysical system, economic drivers related to oil and gas development were also important. Expert-reviewed informational materials were developed to help stakeholders obtain baseline knowledge and stimulate discussions about interactions between drivers, knowledge gaps and uncertainties. Map-based scenario products will allow mission-oriented agencies to jointly explore where to prioritize research investments and address risk in a complex, changing environment. Scenarios consider multidecadal timescales. However, tracking of indicator variables derived from scenarios can lead to important insights about the trajectory of the North Slope social-environmental system and inform management decisions to reduce risk on much shorter timescales. The inclusion of stakeholders helps provide a broad spectrum of expert viewpoints necessary for considering the range of plausible scenarios. A well-defined focal question, transparency in the participation process and continued outreach about the utility and limitations of scenarios are also important components of the scenarios process.