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Arctic Circumpolar Governance

Learning objectives

  • To define the Arctic region
  • To understand the complexities of Arctic governance
  • To understand why there is a need for change in Arctic governance, particularly in light of climate change

Pole position

The section introduces the limits of the Arctic region and the complexity of defining these limits.

All of the definitions are correct!

Climate change will alter the temperature and vegetation limits, pushing the boundary of the Arctic Region by these definitions further north.

Western Europe is not in the 50 degree north boundary because the warm North Atlantic Drift keeps the western coast of Europe warm.

Countries of the Arctic

The development of the government of Nunavut is examined and why there is a need for change. Students can investigate the changes to governance.

Students are asked to choose an image to illustrate what they think the Arctic is like from an image gallery. Images of the Arctic are often used by the countries which have Arctic lands on their stamps. These are described in a virtual journey and students are asked to design a stamp possibly using the image chosen earlier or another from the site.

The Arctic Council

The working of the Council and its members are explored.

Why do you think that countries who do not have land in the Arctic should want to be part of the Arctic Council?

Variety of reasons such as;

  • Increased accessibility of resources
  • Land as yet unclaimed
  • Interest in the preservation of ecosystem
  • Interest in the preservation of the indigenous way of life
  • Concern over the rate of climate change

List of changes to the Arctic

  • Less sea ice
  • Changes in vegetation
  • Globalisation
  • Exposure of resources
  • Changes in the indigenous way of life, etc.

Other areas where there are disagreements might include Antarctica

Search and Rescue
Students should be encouraged to think of factors other than the centres being equally spaced around the Arctic. They could use other areas of the site to look at

  • Extent of ice cover and for how long during the year.
  • The sea routes and number of ships during the year.
  • The land sea balance – which is most likely to be used in a situation in the area, air, sea or both?
  • The population of an area and how that might affect the need for search and rescue provision

Further information can be found at:

Oil Spill Preparedness Response
A full pdf of the whole report can be found at as the first download.

Students should be encouraged to link this to the section on oil and gas in Resources from the Edge – Nature’s riches. A class debate could be encouraged

Mercury in the Arctic

Indigenous groups

This could be group work in groups of four or five with each group researching one indigenous group. Students complete the table available as a download at the end of this section and then compare their findings.

Main findings should be: climate change, environmental change, biodiversity, human health (UV radiation and pollutants), changing social structures and lifestyles, resource use, particularly fish stocks and oil.

Polar pitstop

Group work to look at how changes in the Arctic will affect the lives of the people in the picture, both young and old.

This can be done using the table provided on the site to look at the future hopes and concerns of the people of the village. This is then compared to the hopes and concerns for the future of the students themselves.

Teachers' notes

Notes on each chapter for information and tips on the activities in each section to help you plan how to use the site:


Home | 1: Climate change | 2: Living on the edge | 3: Arctic science | 4: Hunter or hunted? | 5: Postcard from the edge | 6: Troubled waters | 7: Resources from the edge | 8: Arctic Circumpolar Governance | 9: Snow, water, ice, permafrost | 10: Adapting to change

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