In January 2015 Oil prices were high, and the decade-long High North strategy the main driver for the expansion of Norwegian oil operations in the Arctic. Skepticism and critique were uttered from environmental organizations, some regional development stakeholders, the smaller political parties and fisheries and tourism representatives ? as well as voices from the local communities. The signals from the north were still ambiguous ? many wanted oil development while others were skeptical.
Based on this ambiguity, the project has examined the way in which the oil industry has been perceived as a challenge to communities in the north, and in what way the Arctic represents a challenge for the oil industry.
Two external incidents had particular significance for the industry's development in the north, the first being the sharp decline in oil prices, from over 100 dollars a barrel to under 30 dollars in early 2016. The consequences was severe: In Norway over 40 000 jobs were lost, investment fell, and even with an upswing in the market from 2017 thousands of jobs could not be replaced. Simultaneously the lack of consensus between oil producers like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia And the US means that the future of the oil economy remains uncertain. In addition, the fossil industry is challenged by green energy initiatives. The second important incident is, of course, the signing and ratification of the Paris agreement, which sets clear emission cut targets for all nations.
Based on this, ARCTICCHALLENGEs researchers have examined how people's wishes and ideas about the future influence political decisions on oil extraction, and how major development projects affect communities in the Arctic and their future prospects. Fieldwork has been done in Norway (Lofoten), Greenland and Alaska. In all sites petroleum is by actors both inside and outside the state considered important for future investments even after the major changes we have seen in recent years, and that offshore petroleum activities all three locations are controversial and conflict ridden.
In Alaska the changing circumstances for offshore petroleum led to a higher sense of uncertainty about future pathways, showing that local community dependence on oil seemingly causes a "silence" or passivity concerning thinking about alternatives. Shell's decision to pull out of Arctic areas also represents a shift in the debate, where the oil-driven U.S. state will have to look at other, complementary industries for the in the future less profitable petroleum production. An important theme for ARCTICCHALLENGEs research has thus been to analyze the assumptions states and communities alike concerning oil when talking about the future; A future where many are hoping for a revitalized petroleum industry, but where others fear that the most profitable oil years are behind them.
In Western Greenland, all licenses are returned to the state, after the prospects have shown disappointing results after drilling, or simply been deemed too expensive for production. The response to this from the small communities in Baffin Bay reflects a mix of disappointment and relief, as the consequences of potential future petroleum development on traditional ways of life is uncertain. Additionally, the changes influences negatively the possibility for future economic and ultimately political and judicial independence from Denmark.
In Norway, the debate about the opening of the LoVeSe regions to oil activity resurfaced during the election campaign i 2017 and in the discussions about a new political platform for the new Solberg cabinet. This also meant that the oil debate was reintroduced to communities where people had been busy with developments in fisheries, tourism and aquaculture amongst others. ARCTICCHALLENGE has thus looked at how knowledge production and future imaginations presented on a national levels has been interpreted locally and how the future of the region being depicted as intertwined with the future of the Norwegian oil industry have also been met with other narratives about a possible future without oil.
General findings from the project suggest that in recent years development trends have led to a growing uncertainty as to whether ripple effects of oil development will reach all, and that the ripple effect one has seen for instance in Hammerfest, Norway has not created the enthusiasm for potential elsewhere (for instance in the Lofoten Islands) many had hoped for. In addition, there are skepticism about the specific investments made to facilitate for the oil and gas industry and whether it will benefit or be a hindrance to other industries, such as fisheries, farming and tourism, and its effect and potential threat to traditional ways of life.
ARCTICCHALLENGE will compare socio-cultural factors that shape the production of knowledge about natural environments and resources, and explore how this knowledge in turn shapes political decisions and technological and economic processes in three Arctic places; Norway, Greenland and the US (Alaska). The project in this way meets the explicit intention of the PETROSAM 2-programme to focus on societal developments in an important petroleum region; the Arctic. It also meets the programme goal of strengthen ing the Norwegian position as a major petroleum actor in the region, and emphasizes the need for increased knowledge about or petroleum activities with a regional and Arctic perspective. In addition, the project will increase knowledge concerning coexiste nce and conflicts between industries, policy makers, public interests (such as environmental concerns) and local community concerns. The project will draw on cultural cognition (how knowledge is generated through shared mythologies) and ontological risk ( the exposure of worldviews to existential hazards), to investigate how cultural theory of risk can shed light on local perceptions of security regarding petroleum development. TThe approach in this way responds to the PETROSAM 2 call for a broadened knowl edge basis for political decision-making. The project also aims for long-term and strategic collaboration and the establishment of arenas for cross-disciplinary research between Norwegian, Greenland and US research communities. This will strengthen the ro le of the social sciences and humanities in Arctic issues and address challenges and opportunities connected to theory development at the intersection between social science and the humanities.