Prof. Gail Whiteman, Al Gore, Prof. Konrad Steffen and Prof. Jeremy Wilkinson, Davos, Jan 2017

Arctic Basecamp at Davos 2017


The Arctic has been described as the canary in the coalmine for the health of the global environment. It is a complex region that is experiencing unprecedented change. Arctic Basecamp at Davos brings this message to global leaders, starting with the World Economic Forum 2017.

We are seeking funding to run Arctic Basecamp at Davos again in 2018 - for an Arctic Science summit which takes our knowledge of Arctic change to world leaders.  Visit our crowdfunding page on JustGiving to help us get there.  

We are witnessing drastic environmental, economic and societal changes that not only have regional implications, but are also likely to have profound global consequences. What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay there. Yet most of the existing cost-benefit assessments of changes to the Arctic have been regional in nature - who around the Arctic stands to lose and who to gain, and with what local costs and benefits? Potential global impacts and economic costs remain invisible.

In 2017, the Arctic had a record low in winter sea ice, and the world is watching the summer sea ice melt closely. Local communities are increasingly concerned about the fundamental changes affecting their region, and Arctic scientists are increasingly concerned about the potential scale of global risks arising from the teleconnections between the Arctic and the rest of the world. Arctic change is at a critical juncture; hard choices need to be made. These informed decisions must be evidence-based and not ideologically driven. Global politicians and policymakers, as well as industry leaders and the public, need to have the most up-to-date and robust science available on Arctic change and its impacts. Advanced scientific knowledge is exactly what is needed for effective decision-making.

Arctic scientists have clear evidence that:

  • Climate change is real; it is happening now and humans are largely responsible.
  • The Arctic and high mountain regions are undergoing dramatic changes related to global warming. Longterm measurements clearly demonstrate that the Arctic is warming at a rate over twice the global average. Extreme events are becoming more common in some regions of the Arctic.
  • Long-term scientific measurements clearly demonstrate that the Arctic is warming at a rate over twice the global average. This has increased the melt rate of Arctic glaciers and ice sheets which contributes to global sea level rise and other broader climate consequences.
  • The repercussions of Arctic change carry profound global risks for the world’s societies, economies and industry sectors such as agriculture, insurance, infrastructure, shipping, and natural resource based industries.
  • Arctic change requires urgent action from world leaders and top decision-makers, and underscores the need to raise global ambitions by 2018 in line with the Paris Agreement; bearing in mind that a 2°C rise globally would mean up to 5°C increase across the Arctic.

The Arctic Basecamp at Davos concept was created by Pentland Centre Director Gail Whiteman, and co-organized with Jeremy Wilkinson (British Antarctic Survey), Konrad Steffen (WSL, Switzerland) and Jürg Schweizer (WSL/SLF, Switzerland) in order to bring this message to global leaders and influencers at the World Economic Forum 2017.  The Basecamp called for action from global leaders to apply the 2017 Davos theme, Responsive and Responsible Leadership, to address global risks from Arctic change.

Joined by 80 business and civil society leaders, politicians, scientists and policy makers, the science summit shared cutting-edge scientific knowledge and rousing keynotes from former US Vice President Al Gore, Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Peter Bakker, President/CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and Paavo Lipponen the former Finnish Prime Minister.

Through a mixture of focused panel discussions, scientific presentations and speeches, the event was unequivocal in its call for action from global leaders. Our message to the world’s most powerful global audience was to convey that long-term negative changes in the Arctic pose serious socio-economic risks to the rest of the world.

During the week, we produced a series of Video News Releases and provided broadcasters with interviews and exclusive footage. Leading up to the event we ran a social media campaign which amplified during Davos. The event was live streamed across the world, and watched by nearly 5,000 people globally. It was covered by the BBC World Service and Reuters TV and featured on over 100 TV news outlets worldwide including US, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland.  Christiana Figueres was interviewed at the Basecamp by the BBC featuring on the News at Six and the News at Ten.  In addition the Arctic Basecamp had strong print, radio and online coverage via the The Guardian, BBC Business Online, the World Economic Forum’s Agenda, as well as German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Swiss newspaper Südostschweiz.  We reached nearly 10 Million people via social media with #ArcticMatters, and even engaged A-list celebrities. Our Facebook live interview with BBC World Service had over 170,000 views.

And we aim to do all this again in 2018 and beyond - we are raising funds now for Arctic Basecamp at Davos 2018 - see our JustGiving page to donate, and follow us on twitter and Facebook.