Melting ice in the Arctic

Systemic ecosystem risks and the corporate boardroom

Arctic ice melt could potentially trigger significant changes in global and regional economies, as well as having a drastic effect on the global climate.

To date, most discussions about the economic implications of a warming Arctic have focussed on benefits to the region, with increased oil-and-gas drilling and the opening up of new shipping routes. However, little is known about the potential global economic impact.

The ICE-ARC project (Ice, Climate, Economics – Arctic Research on Change) examines the current and future changes in Arctic sea ice. It also investigates the consequences of these changes for the global economy and for the indigenous communities in the Arctic region.

This four-year,  €11.5M project brings together physicists, chemists, biologists, economists, and sociologists from 21 institutes from 11 countries across Europe, and is led by the British Antarctic Survey. 

Putting an accurate cost on the damages caused by climate change, as well as evaluating cost-effectiveness of mitigation and adaptation strategies aimed at reducing the damages, is not an easy task, as it requires bringing together the most up-to-date information from both the economic and climate communities. The 2007 UK Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change, for example, made use of an integrated assessment model known as PAGE (Policy Assessment of Greenhouse Effect). For an overview of the main issues concerning modelling the costs and risks of climate change, see this presentation by one of our researchers.  

Our team will build on this approach, updating and adapting this model to include the latest knowledge on Arctic change. The new model, known as PAGE-ICE, will estimate the annual economic gains and losses, in the EU and globally, associated with the projected changes in the Arctic over the next two centuries. 

Management studies on corporate sustainability practices have grown considerably in recent years. The field now has significant knowledge of sustainability issues that are industry-focused. However, there are an increasing number of complex ecological problems, and therefore it is time for corporate sustainability scholars to reconsider the ecological and systemic foundations for sustainability and risk. We need to integrate our work more closely with the natural sciences while maintaining dialogue with the stakeholders. This project is an example of how such a trans-disciplinary approach can be put into practice. 

Based on the nine so-called "Planetary Boundaries" which govern life as we know it, we call for more systemic research that measures the impact of companies on these boundary processes, particularly climate change, the global nitrogen cycle and rate of biodiversity loss.

Our research focuses on how the Planetary Boundaries framework impacts on  corporate sustainability, including looking at governance and institutional challenges.