HONG KONG / BRUSSELS – The environmental transformation taking place in the Arctic is key to understanding the potential global impacts of climate change, an Alaska Native leader and polar explorer told the Reuters Next conference on Monday (Jan. 11). With climate change heating the Arctic at twice the rate of the planet in general, new potential commercial activities have also raised questions about the responsibility and risks at the top of the world, an insurance expert said.
Indigenous peoples' observations of changes in the Arctic – such as fish diseases or shifts in time of year when mountain snow melts – are essential to understanding how climate change is affecting the entire ecosystem, said Ilarion Merculieff, president of the Global Center for Native Leadership and paths of life.
“Indigenous people see things as interdependent, interlocking and synergistically combined,” said Merculieff, a Unangan of the Pribilof Islands off the west coast of Alaska. "We insist that we should involve our different perspectives in Western science."
Such observations are often not followed up by policymakers, he said. Still, they can provide crucial clues about the climate impacts in key economic sectors. According to a McDowell Group industry report last year, the commercial fishing industry in Alaska generates $ 13.9 billion in economic output annually.
Polar explorer Ann Daniels said tracking changes in the Arctic, such as the acidity of sea water, is the limit to understanding climate impacts.
"It's an indication of what's going to happen to the rest of the world," said Daniels, who was one of the first women in history to reach the North and South Poles as part of all-women's teams.
Climate change is opening the Arctic to more tourism, mining and shipping. For the insurance industry, this means a greater demand for coverage – despite a lack of data and experience in the region.
"The Arctic is at the border of risk," said Neil Roberts, chief of marine and aviation at Lloyd's of London Market Association, adding that insurers assessing Arctic projects should consider both environmental and social factors as well as commercial.
"The role of an insurer is to support trade," said Roberts. "In terms of whether we should be above that, that's a broader moral question."
Lloyd & # 39; s Corporation and its members last month pledged to end new investments in new energy exploration activities in the Arctic Ocean starting January 1, 2022.
(Reporting by Clare Baldwin and Kate Abnett; edited by Lisa Shumaker)
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