The Arctic is a unique maritime domain and physical environment that is changing faster than any other place on Earth. The trend of abrupt and substantial variations in ice coverage, increasing temperatures, waves and coastal erosion, and unusual weather patterns is likely to continue, given persistent emission of greenhouse gases, primarily by the world’s industrialized countries. These transformations, although non-linear, profoundly affect both weather and climate in much of the Northern Hemisphere, and spur political dynamics that force governments and organizations to form new policies toward the Arctic region. Numerous factors, including changes in energy prices, global shipping trends, environmental and governance policies all impact the trajectory and pace of Arctic development. Given Russia’s dominant position in the region, the country’s Arctic policies and relations with the outside world have a particularly strong bearing on the regional development. This article examines the “signals” (ongoing trends), the “noise” (short-term fluctuations) and the “swans” (the wild cards) in the environmental changes in the Arctic and their geopolitical implications. Considering the rate and scope of the multilayered regional transformations, this paper argues that it is best to focus on the signals and not the noise, or the short-term fluctuations, while hedging, to the best of our ability, against the wild cards.


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pp. 169-181
Launched on MUSE
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