The Arctic is undergoing rapid and dramatic environmental and social transformations due to climate change. This has ramifications for the entire planet, as change spreads through interconnected global networks that are environmental, cultural, economic and political. The changes currently seen in the Arctic also serve as a warning of what may occur elsewhere as climate change advances. Lessons learned now in the Arctic about the complexity and unpredictability of change, as well as the ways and means to collaborate in monitoring, mobilizing and adapting, may therefore be of crucial importance for other world regions. Understanding and responding to this challenge requires the unified efforts of the scientific community, civil society, governments and national and international organisations from across the globe.

Now that the anthropogenic origin of climate change has been ascertained, it is increasingly recognised that the major thrust of research efforts must shift from deciphering causes and monitoring trends, to exploring strategies for response and adaptation. The development of these strategies has therefore emerged as a central preoccupation of all actors, including the UN system.