The Arctic is undergoing the largest environmental state-change on Earth. The challenge is to reconcile and harmonize the growing diverse human interests with the existing natural systems to promote development in a sustainable manner in the Arctic Ocean. Arctic Options is focused on producing useable knowledge, not prescriptive policy recommendations. We will synthesize natural and social science research, leverage future scenario planning activities, and create geospatial maps for competing Arctic interests, in order to identify practical governance options that will support sustainable development of the Arctic across the 21st century and beyond.


Pan-Arctic Options will identify development and governance options that balance economic, social, and environmental interests in Arctic coastal-marine systems through an international, interdisciplinary, and inclusive process of data analysis. In the context of ongoing climate change, we strive to balance: national and common interests; public and corporate interests; the needs of present and future generations; and environmental protection, social equity, and economic prosperity across sectors.


Our goal is to reveal options that contribute to informed decision-making for sustainable infrastructure development in a pan-Arctic context. For the purpose of this project, infrastructure involves fixed, mobile and other built assets (including observing, communications, research and information systems) as well as regulatory, policy and other governance mechanisms (including insurance). Sustainability involves balance between: (1) environmental protection, economic prosperity and social equity; (2) needs of the present and needs of the future; and (3) national interests and common interests. To achieve its goal, Pan-Arctic Options has engaged a core team of natural and social scientists from Canada, China, France, Norway, Russian Federation and the United States with additional collaborators from the Netherlands and United Kingdom along with experts from diverse organizations, contributing together on tasks related to four objectives:


  • Integrate stakeholder perspectives about opportunities and risks in Arctic coastal-marine systems to reveal plausible scenarios about infrastructure development across the Arctic Ocean over diverse spatial and temporal scales
  • Integrate Arctic coastal and marine data (from the natural and social sciences) in an efficient, flexible and objective manner for diverse decision-making purposes
  • Integrate policy documents to reveal their institutional interplay with regard to infrastructure requirements in the Arctic Ocean at diverse jurisdictional levels
  • Distill options for sustainable infrastructure development in a pan-Arctic context, which will be: (a) derived from the integrated decision-support tool (Objectives 1-3); and (b) be shared with decision makers from government (local to international) and industry


The project will involve marine spatial planning on a pan-Arctic scale, while also focusing more specifically on four coastal-marine areas. These areas are hotspots experiencing increased maritime traffic, fishing, tourism, and offshore hydrocarbon exploration and development, and are also of great importance for indigenous users of marine resources. Most importantly, they feature socio-ecological systems in which anthropogenic impacts will increase dramatically in the future.


Pan-Arctic Options will use data-rich procedures to address questions of immediate and growing interest to a variety of stakeholders, while avoiding bias in favor of any particular stakeholder group.

  • Collect and integrate geospatially referenced data to identify biophysical and socioeconomic trends likely to generate needs for governance and infrastructure
  • Use scenarios to project key trends forward 10-30 years, especially in regards to anticipated human activities
  • Engage stakeholders and explore options for infrastructure, governance systems and other policy actions

Regions of Focus

  • Bering Strait Region: A critical Arctic Ocean access choke point that is environmentally sensitive and under US and Russian jurisdiction
  • Arctic High Seas: The High Seas face increasing access and multiple rights holders
  • West Coast of Greenland: A single political jurisdiction with its competing ways of life
  • Barents Sea Region: An area shared by Norwegian and Russian jurisdictions, and a thoroughfare for Arctic marine traffic


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