Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center Announces Arctic Initiative

October 13, 2017
Close-up of an ice sheet.

Led by Professors John P. Holdren and Henry Lee, the Initiative is focused on the challenges linked to rapid climate change in the Arctic

Belfer Communications Office

The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) today announced the establishment of The Arctic Initiative: Science, Technology, Education, and Policy Innovation for a Sustainable Arctic. The Arctic Initiative is a joint project of the Belfer Center's Environment and Natural Resources Program (ENRP) and the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program (STPP).

Led by Professors John P. Holdren and Henry Lee, the Initiative is focused on the environmental, economic, and social challenges linked to rapid climate change in the Arctic, with particular emphasis on issues for which insights about the relevant science and technology are germane. Holdren co-directs STPP and Lee directs ENRP. Halla Hrund Logadóttir, ENRP Fellow and former Director of the Iceland School of Energy (ISE) at Reykjavík University, is a co-founder of the Initiative and will serve as program manager.

Holdren, who headed the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and served as President Obama's Science Advisor from January 2009 until January 2017, announced the Initiative during his keynote speech today at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavík, the largest international annual gathering on Arctic affairs. One of his duties in the White House was to chair the Arctic Executive Steering Committee, charged by the President with coordinating the activities of the 25 federal agencies and offices with responsibilities in the region.

The Arctic Initiative will build on that experience and the strong faculty and student interest at the Kennedy School and across Harvard—as well as strong relationships with many of the other organizations across the globe that work on Arctic issues—seeking to develop new insights and collaborations that link science, technology, and policy in support of responses to the challenges and the opportunities now facing the region.

Initial focuses will include the intersection of the rapid climate change affecting the Arctic with resource development, environmental conservation, the infrastructure needs of a changing Arctic, and the needs and cultures of indigenous Arctic peoples.

"The challenges and opportunities facing the Arctic are interdisciplinary, intersectoral, international, and intergenerational," said Holdren, who is attending the Arctic Circle Assembly with a delegation from Harvard Kennedy School. He added, "What is happening and will happen there affects not only the eight nations with territory in the Arctic, but the rest of the world as well. We hope that the new Harvard effort will be able to contribute meaningfully to the global efforts already underway to clarify and react appropriately to the changes going on there."

The work undertaken by the new Arctic Initiative will include:

Conducting new faculty-led research at Harvard and in collaboration with other research and policy organizations across the Arctic nations;

Convening top leaders in Arctic research and policy to discuss how best to advance the collaborative research assessment and management efforts that have long been underway under the auspices of the eight-nation Arctic Council and other national and international bodies;

Helping to train a new generation of public and private leaders with deep knowledge of Arctic environmental change and its implications inside and outside the region.

In a precursor to the formal launch of the Initiative, Holdren, Lee, and Logad├│ttir earlier this fall convened a new training effort called the Arctic Innovators Program. That effort, now a part of the new Initiative, aims to bring more young people into the expanding international discussion of Arctic issues, both to educate them about this fast-changing region and its impacts on the rest of the globe and to equip them with the information and tools they need to contribute to developing and implementing sustainable solutions. The first cohort of competitively chosen student Innovators is attending the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland.

"The small communities in the Arctic cannot by themselves solve the global issues that the changing Arctic is revealing," said Logad├│ttir. "We need more education and innovation to help each other find the answers. Our vision is for the Arctic Initiative to help meet that need and train the next generation of Arctic experts and leaders."

For more information, please visit the Arctic Initiative website.

Image by Heather Shevlin