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Climate Researchers Are Setting Up an Arctic Base Camp at Davos

The goal: Convince the elite to give a shit about the Arctic.

On Tuesday morning, a team of climate scientists were busy setting up a mock Arctic base camp at the Swiss resort that is hosting politicians, celebrities, and the global economic elite for the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos this week.

Tonight, they'll sleep in those tents. Tomorrow, they'll try to convince the most powerful people in the world that they should give a shit about the Arctic, an area of increasing economic importance that's nonetheless hugely threatened by climate change.


"The main objective is to explain why Arctic [climate] change poses global risks for societies and economies around the world," said Gail Whiteman, a professor of sustainability in business at the University of Lancaster and the woman heading up Arctic Basecamp Davos, in an interview from the camp.

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"As opposed to keeping Arctic science in the Arctic," she said, "we've come to the premier place for discussions on global risk to kickstart a conversation on solutions to negative Arctic change that we know, based on scientific evidence, is happening."

2016 saw record-shattering temperatures and it's expected that on Wednesday, NASA and the NOAA will jointly confirm that it was the hottest year on record. At the end of October, Arctic ice was at its second-lowest point since we started keeping track.

Arctic Basecamp Davos will feature talks from the likes of Al Gore and David Miller, the former Toronto mayor who's now head of World Wildlife Fund Canada. But the meeting will also try and connect businesspeople and other Davos types directly with scientists who know what's happening the Arctic, without the Davos filter.

It won't be easy, since the focus is, of course, the world economy and keeping the whole system moving along, overcoming or deferring crises. The WEF's global risk report pegged climate change at number two on the list of global risks—to the economy, of course. Climate change is on the agenda, but in the context of issues like carbon markets.


Image: Twitter/@ArcticDavos

One could be skeptical of the possibility for systemic overhaul of the world order stemming from such a place, to say the least, but that's what Whiteman said Arctic Basecamp Davos is after.

"You can't shop your way out of Arctic change," said Whiteman. "You need systemic change across different levels."

Davos, as a conference that touches on global risk, is also full of programming on what Donald Trump's election means for the world, adding that much more noise for the Arctic signal to cut through. Early headlines have been about China's move to take on the role of global free trade champion, now that Trump—no fan of trade deals like the TPP—is headed for the White House.

Whatever comes of Arctic Basecamp Davos, one hopes that at the very least it provides a much-needed reality check.

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