Warmer, uncertain but predictable? Results from the scenario workshop during the annual meeting.
“Future thinking” is a topic that has received increasing attention in recent decades. A variety of methods exist to think about the future. One of the methods most familiar to the community of natural scientists is based on numerical model simulations. The scenario method is a complementary approach that has been an integral part of the framework of “future studies” or “futurology” for more than 50 years.
Scenario building is not about predicting, but about exploring. Scenarios explore multiple futures, from the expected to the wildcard, in forms that are analytically coherent and imaginatively engaging. Thinking about the future is both universal (everyone thinks about the future) and personal (everyone thinks about it in their own way). Scenario workshops allows scientists and non-scientists (managers, stakeholders) to confront their perspectives about the future. Such workshops can be used as a platform to engage parties into a constructive dialogue and reflect together about potential threats and adaptations to cope with uncertain futures.
A first scenario workshop was organized in August 2019. It was primarily targeting stakeholders. Its objective was to highlight current practices in risk management and how these could be altered under possible future scenarios. During this first workshop the stakeholders emphasised the importance of the continuous dialogue between scientists, managers and sectors. They particularly valued the communication of recent scientific results and of anticipated changes in the natural system. In addition, they identified several domains of interest regarding scientific contributions. These include possible future changes in: biological production, biodiversity, seasonality, species spatial distribution, conflicts of access to resources, ecosystem vulnerability and geopolitics.
A second scenario workshop was organized by Benjamin Planque (IMR) in order to allow Nansen Legacy scientists to jointly explore possible futures. Particular attention was paid to discuss unexpected vs. expected futures, to specify desired vs. undesired futures and to highlight how the research conducted in the Nansen Legacy can contribute to the domains of interest identified earlier by the stakeholders.
The future of the Barents Sea in one word as seen by the participants of the scenario workshop during the Nansen Legacy annual meeting In October 2019.
Of the about 70 participating Nansen Legacy researchers, 72% think that in 30 years from now, the Barents will not function as it does today but at the same time, most believe that we can anticipate the changes (45% of total respondents). The vulnerability of the Barents Sea is perceived as increasing by 61% and decreasing by 2% while 13% think it is not changing very much and 24% think it is not measurable. Respondents are fairly confident about future increases in human activities, pollution (of various kinds), temperature, sea-ice loss and changes in species composition. A number of unlikely events that could possibly alter the future of the Barents Sea were suggested, including oil exploitation accidents, species invasions, radioactive incidents, political incidents and technological inventions.