Raising Economies in Rising Temperatures

Friday, July 31 2009

July 31, 2009

Written by Ken Kingery

MOSCOW, IDAHO – Scientists at the University of Idaho are preparing for the future by exploring how communities in the far north are coping with the effects climate change is having on their local economies.

Harley Johansen, professor and head of the geography department at the University of Idaho, recently secured a two year, $174,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to compare statistics and interview economic planners from 71 municipalities north of 65 degrees latitude.

The invisible line for this study cuts through northern Finland, Norway, Sweden and northwest Russia – areas offering the conditions of extreme latitude, a long history of permanent settlements, and a variety of government approaches to climate change and rural development.

“The Nordic countries at this latitude are way ahead of anyone else in the world in terms of government programs to help local communities adapt to the economic effects of climate change,” said Johansen. “They’ve been feeling the impact of climate change for the past 25 years. I think we can learn a lot from their early work.”

The study will compare and contrast base indicators such as population trends, urban accessibility, infrastructure, government support, and development strategies to find differences responsible for economic success.

Climate change already has impacted traditional industries in these remote regions and many species of local game, including polar bears and caribou. Agriculture has been altered as well by changing growing seasons, precipitation patterns and general temperatures, while rising waters have affected ocean currents and the fishing industry.

But these issues don’t have to spell economic disaster.

Economic planners are accounting for these changes by looking into new types of crops to grow and spreading farm lands, dairy production and fur farming into new territories.

Learning what questions to ask and which indicators are important may be key for future planning in America as the affects of climate change creep further south. Johansen hopes this study is just the first of many as partnerships are being formed with colleagues around the world.

“I’ve already been contacted by the Barents Institute in Norway, NORDREGIO in Stockholm, Sweden, and Joensuu University in Finland to begin collaboration,” said Johansen. “They’ll collaborate on data collection, work with us on components of the municipality survey and add different dimensions to the problem at hand. This project will establish a basis for comparison among high-latitude communities that will lead to further international collaboration and it should produce some useful models for rural communities in lower latitudes as they face the need to adapt to climate change effects on their local economies.”
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.

Media Contact: Ken Kingery, University Communications, (208) 885-9156, kkingery@uidaho.edu  

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.