Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 237

237 Arctic Yearbook 2015 hope for is the development of a long-term problem solving or management capacity (Weber & Khademian 2008). Van Bueren, Klijn and Koppenjan (2003) point to three types of uncertainty that characterize wicked problems: cognitive, strategic, and institutional uncertainty. Cognitive uncertainty reflects the basic lack of technical knowledge about the “causes and effects” of wicked problems, and also about the causal relationships between issues involved (van Bueren et al 2003: 193). Strategic uncertainty grows out the number of actors involved, who have differing perceptions of the problem, differing solutions, and therefore differing strategies for engaging with the problem. These differences can lead to conflict, stagnation, and potentially unexpected outcomes (van Bueren et al 2003: 193). Institutional uncertainty is a result of the “highly fragmented” institutional setting in which wicked problems are addressed. Decision-making is distributed across a variety of institutional arenas. “Often, decisions are only loosely coupled and sometimes not at all” (van Bueren et al. 2003: 194). Given these conditions, “dealing with wicked problems is—to a large extent—a problem of interaction” (Ibid). Wicked problems are frustrating, complex, and pose special challenges to policymakers. They challenge assumptions about rational and logical approaches to addressing public policy problems. Arctic emergency response: a wicked problem All of the characteristics discussed previously as distinctive of wicked problems are in ample evidence in the maritime Arctic realm. Although May et al. (2005) use the label “policy incoherence”, much of their analysis also characterizes wicked policy problems: they note the uncertainty and “limited shared basis for constructing definitions of problems” in the Arctic (2005: 4). The fundamental difficulty in the Arctic is twofold: responding to a rapidly warming regional climate and simultaneously managing an increase in human activity. Change is cascading through both human and environmental systems in the Arctic region, and the difficulty of managing and adapting to these changes is therefore significantly more challenging. The realm of emergency response is perhaps the most pressing challenge facing governments in the North American and Siberian regions of the Arctic, where increased human activity is occurring in the absence of fully developed infrastructure. Although the policy solutions to inadequate emergency response infrastructure may appear simple— build infrastructure and increase staffing—this simplicity is deceptive. Construction and maintenance of infrastructure in the far North is complicated by the extreme climate, which requires special materials, techniques, and maintenance. These considerations multiply costs considerably. Seasonal limitations on construction exist. In addition, the costs of transporting construction materials to remote Arctic locations are significant. For example, while the price of a gallon of gas in the “lower 48” of the US was around $2.50 during April 2015, in Barrow, Alaska, it was approximately $7.00. While infrastructure development is a costly undertaking in any circumstance, the enormous additional costs of Arctic development pose challenges for policymakers. Compounding the extreme cost of infrastructure development for emergency response in the Arctic is the uncertainty associated with ship traffic. If policymakers commit to public spending now in order to improve emergency response, and traffic does not increase, the money will be seen as going to Pincus