Looking to the Future on Alaska’s North Slope

Tribal Profiles
U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

Increasingly accessible resources in the Arctic region have caught the imagination of potential developers. For instance, exploration geologists believe the North Slope of Alaska and the seas around it hold some of the largest remaining deposits of oil, gas, and coal in the United States. Additionally, the region provides habitat for a diverse array of fish, wildlife, and plant resources. A range of individuals and companies are eager to build businesses based on the region’s rich resources. The region has also caught the attention of environmental stewards and groups that monitor climate conditions and impacts. As temperatures rise, melting permafrost endangers infrastructure and modifies landscapes, reduced sea ice necessitates new approaches for subsistence hunters, and increased coastal erosion reduces the expanse of safe, solid land along coasts. To balance conflicting goals of resource development and climate resilience, decision makers need solid scientific information and an informed vision of potential future conditions in the region. In order to understand the potential costs and benefits of developing Arctic resources in a safe and sustainable manner—and to help ensure that residents and ecosystems in the region can adapt as conditions change—federal, state, local, and Native entities in Alaska formed the North Slope Science Initiative (NSSI). The group is authorized to serve as an inter-governmental forum for science collaboration through the Energy Policy Act of 2005. To produce science-based guidance for development or energy resources in the region, NSSI took up the idea of developing detailed scenarios—plausible stories about how the future might unfold—to describe how resource development could occur and what monitoring efforts would be useful to help protect people and the environment as conditions change.

U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, Biodiversity Conservation, Assessment and Planning, Monitoring, Resource Development, Permafrost Melt, Infrastructure