Svalbard and Conflict Management in a Changing Climate

A Risk Based Approach


  • John Ash Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, and UiT The Arctic University of Norway



Arctic, climate change, conflict, risk, Svalbard


Conflict in the Arctic is nothing new, and Svalbard is a geographical confluence of factors that create the potential for inter-group violence. The purpose of this paper is to explore those factors, identifying approaches to the evaluation of their associated risk. The emphasis is on biomarine resources, which at present constitute the most likely focus for escalating disputes. Contributory factors, including the catalytic effects of climate change, will also be considered. Given the political progress that has been achieved recently, the most likely situation for an intense interstate conflict in the short term is one that spreads tothe Arctic, rather than one igniting within it. However, as the century progresses, dormant problems relating to the Svalbard archipelago will combine with environmental, economic and political trends to exacerbate conflict risk. Traditionally, armed conflict has been viewed as a phenomenon that cannot be predicted. This view is identified as dangerously misleading. Using a risk based approach and noting advances in analytical techniques, representative scenarios in which conflict may occur are examined and prospective methods of risk management identified.

Author Biography

John Ash, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, and UiT The Arctic University of Norway

PhD, Institute Associate, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, and Associate Professor II, UiT The Arctic University of Norway. Recent publications: “Cold Peace: Arctic Conflict in an Era of Climate Change” (Journal of Intelligence and Terrorism Studies, vol. 1, 2016); “Harvesting Arctic Authority: Sovereignty and the Protection of Polar Biomarine Resources” (Geostrategic Maritime Review, no. 7, Quest for the Arctic, Fall/Winter 2016).


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How to Cite

Ash, John. 2020. “Svalbard and Conflict Management in a Changing Climate: A Risk Based Approach”. Nordlit, no. 45 (February):56–85.