Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

Navigating the New Arctic Frontier

No region of the world is warming faster or changing more fundamentally than the Arctic. These changes impact the region directly, but also spill over to impact the entire planet.

Retreating sea ice enables intense polar storms to wash away away coastal communities, while simultaneously increasing the rate of global warming (as less of the sun’s energy is reflected back to space). Melting ice sheets in Greenland affect Indigenous communities, while simultaneously contributing to rising sea level globally. Migrating biological resources threaten native peoples and ecosystems, while increasing demand for resource utilization in other regions of the world.

These and myriad other changes are a core focus of study at IBES, where a unique, large and complementary set of researchers who are working together to navigate this new frontier and provide solutions for the region and our planet.

Together, IBES faculty are a core part of the broader University consortium to study environmental change in the Arctic


The continuing loss of Arctic cryosphere provides challenges, but also opportunities – such as newly accessible mineral and hydrocarbon resources, more efficient routes for shipping, and self-determination for Arctic Indigenous peoples. Indeed, having shipborne trade move across the Arctic, between Europe and Asia, could dramatically reduce the fuel and carbon-intensive demands of international trade.
The Greenland ice sheet is filling the world’s oceans with more meltwater than any other source on Earth, while melting fjord ice is transforming the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable, coastal communities there.


Five thousand miles northwest of College Hill, a series of Alaskan lakes have attracted the attention of expert geochemist Yongsong Huang. The sediments found deep in these waters are the oldest in the region, and may contain clues to the planet's—and humanity's—past and future.
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