The assembled meeting was addressed by Ambassadors Vitaly Churkin, and Gunnar Palsson of the Arctic Council, who touched on the wider economic implications of research in the Arctic, with climate change opening up the Arctic to resource and transport related activities.
The Arctic Ocean is set to become the scene of a major concentration of research activity beginning form the International Polar Year in 2007, and the participants contributed to the defining of the key research priorities for the future, taking particular note of what Bob Corell, Chairman of the Steering Group called the "Grand Challenges for Arctic Research".
Climate change, and the gaps in knowledge of our understanding of the mechanisms, the pace and the eventual impacts coloured much of the discussions. The Arctic Region amplifies climate impacts, and has already begun to exhibit disturbing signs of major changes to the ice pack, the Greenland ice-cap, and to the permafrost and hydrological cycles, which are affecting the lives and livelihoods of the Arctic peoples.
Arctic research activities will require greater than ever cooperation within the international Arctic science community, and mechanisms have to be found to facilitate this cooperation to allow for the optimal deployment of resources, and new sharing of information between disciplines.
In addition, rapidly evolving technological capabilities are placing innovative tools in the hands of scientists, opening up the possibilities of understanding the global climate system of multiple and complex multidimensional interlinkages. Remote sensing via satellites is giving the Arctic research community a powerful tool which will allow a systematic and wide ranging observation and monitoring of surface phenomena. Coupled with targeted field work, understanding the Arctic system is within hand. This understanding is becoming increasingly urgent as changes in the Arctic will have wide ranging implications for the entire planet, and many important questions remain to be answered. With ICARP II, the research community is rising to the challenge.
Break-out sessions were carried out in twelve working groups which over two days discussed the draft texts covering each area. At the end of discussions, each working group reported back to the plenary on the main modifications suggested by the participants. A consolidated report is due soon.
The science plan will be finalised, and implementation will be dicussed in March 2006, at the Arctic Science Summit Week to be held in Potsdam.