- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

As Climate Change Upends the Arctic, ‘Innovators’ Seek Solutions

  • Jacob Carozza
| Spring 2018

Across the Arctic, rapid climate change is taking its toll. Melting ice and sea level rise are threatening entire communities. Areas rich in oil and gas are opening up to exploration, but the economic benefits often do not reach Arctic populations. For many, life in the Arctic is becoming more difficult each day.

The Arctic Initiative’s Arctic Innovators program gives a select group of 14 Harvard Kennedy School students the opportunity to tackle these challenges. The students spent the fall semester developing ideas through sessions with Arctic leaders and experts at the Kennedy School. In October, they traveled to Iceland, where they met with the country’s president and presented their work at the Arctic Circle Assembly.

The program is intended to bring more people into the dialogue about Arctic issues while also promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, said Halla Hrund Logadóttir, a Co-founder of the Arctic Initiative and a fellow at the Belfer Center’s Environment and Natural Resources Program.

“All the students have so much passion to really solve problems,” she said. “We really want to do useful work that can help the Arctic make useful decisions.”

Some of the students’ proposals seek to utilize emerging technologies to meet the region’s unique demands—drones that would monitor glacier ice melt and deliver essential goods like food and medical supplies to remote populations; a digital library that uses virtual reality to share and preserve food production skills.

Other ideas are focused on using the power of national and subnational governments, acting alone or together, to enact change in the Arctic. One idea would set up a fund for climate migrants by imposing a $1 levy on plane tickets in and out of the Arctic.

At an event in November, the Innovators were challenged to condense a semester's worth of work into a two and a half minute pitch, with the audience and a panel of judges voting on the best idea. The winner was Gabrielle Scrimshaw, who proposed an investment fund for ventures owned by indigenous people, primarily in the booming tourism industry in northern Canada.

Logadóttir is working on adapting the program into a course that will be available this fall. Students will again travel to Iceland and work on their own projects to solve the region’s policy challenges.

Meanwhile, students from the initial program have continued their work individually this semester. Arctic Today, an online news source focused on Arctic issues, recently published an op-ed written by each student.

Mehek Sethi has been meeting with people involved in Arctic institutions about her proposal for an Arctic Free Trade Agreement. The Arctic Circle Assembly was crucial to developing her idea, she said.

“It was incredible to see my proposal actually pick up steam among key stakeholders. I am excited to see where this unique opportunity leads me!” she said.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Carozza, Jacob. “As Climate Change Upends the Arctic, ‘Innovators’ Seek Solutions.” Belfer Center Newsletter. Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School (Spring 2018).

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