Arctic Futures Initiative

The Arctic Futures Initiative (AFI) brings a systems analysis perspective to the future of the Arctic.

A researcher tests the Arctic sea ice. Image courtesy NASA ICESCAPE

A researcher tests the Arctic sea ice. Image courtesy NASA ICESCAPE

A vast and rapid transformation of the Arctic and surrounding areas is taking place. Climate, environmental, and socioeconomic drivers may interact and amplify, making decision making in a rapidly changing Arctic difficult and uncertain. Changes may increase existing pressures in the Arctic, while others may bring new opportunities. The objective of the IIASA Arctic Futures Initiative (AFI) is a holistic assessment of the Arctic. The project will involve stakeholders, such as policy and businesses, in dialogue already from the planning stage, through implementation to final aims. The IIASA AFI perspective is a holistic perspective integrating research, policy, business, and society. IIASA is a neutral venue for facilitating discussions, collaboration, new methods and approaches.

IIASA programs will provide expertise on complex systems analysis, scenarios, modeling and integrative techniques. The initiative cuts across the expertise of all IIASA programs: Advanced Systems Analysis (ASA), Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases (AIR), Energy (ENE), Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM), World Population (POP), Risk and Resilience (RISK), Transition to New Technologies (TNT), Evolution and Ecology (EEP), Water (WAT).

In cooperation with stakeholders, IIASA discusses the mid-term and long-term possibilities of the AFI, also in collaboration with the Arctic Council. With stakeholders, IIASA will lay out the goals and agenda for the initiative’s work on the Arctic and also bring together national approaches to the holistic Arctic view.

An important conclusion from several recent events in Finland and the USA was the need for a holistic, integrative assessment of plausible futures of the Arctic, cutting across different disciplines and individual countries’ strategic interests. As an international, independent, non-governmental institute, IIASA is in the process of initiating an Arctic Futures Initiative as a IIASA Futures Initiative, integrating academia, policy, business and society for a holistic understanding of the Arctic. 

Changes in the Arctic environment are influencing and influenced by human activities. One example of major change in the Arctic is that as sea ice declines, shipping routes through the Arctic Ocean may open up, making the region more accessible to commercial shipping, tourism, and fishing. Image courtesy NOAA/NASA

Print this page

Last edited: 07 January 2019


Katica De Pascale

Administrative Assistant: ESP

Exploratory and Special Projects

Directorate - DG

T +43(0) 2236 807 620


Anni Reissell

Guest Research Scholar

Exploratory and Special Projects

T +43(0) 2236 807 678

Arctic Futures Initiative brochure

A systems perspective on the plausible futures of the Arctic


Emelyanova A & Rautio A (2019). A Century of Demographic Ageing in Arctic Canada (1950–2050). Journal of Population Ageing 12 (1): 25-50. DOI:10.1007/s12062-017-9211-5.

Winiger P, Barrett T E, Sheesley R J, Huang L, Sharma S, Barrie L A, Yttri K E, Evangeliou N, et al. (2019). Source apportionment of circum-Arctic atmospheric black carbon from isotopes and modeling. Science Advances 5 (2): eaau8052. DOI:10.1126/sciadv.aau8052.

Christensen TR, Arora VK, Gauss M, Höglund Isaksson L ORCID:, & Parmentier F-JW (2019). Tracing the climate signal: mitigation of anthropogenic methane emissions can outweigh a large Arctic natural emission increase. Scientific Reports 9 (1): e1146. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-37719-9.

Landauer M & Komendantova N (2018). Participatory environmental governance of infrastructure projects affecting reindeer husbandry in the Arctic. Journal of Environmental Management 223: 385-395. DOI:10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.06.049.

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313