The Greenland Ice Sheet is Melting
A recent YouGov survey reports that one-third of Britons believe the human race will go extinct due to climate change. Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is scared, and she wants you to be afraid too. With glaciers in Greenland melting and worries about temperature and sea-level rise, what actions need to be taken, and what can regular people do that can have any impact?
Arctic Climate Change is Altering Greenland
In our first interview with Aka Niviâna, we discussed whether Greenland is for sale, and cultural changes in her country in its journey towards self-determination. She’s a climate change and Indigenous rights activist who lives in Nuuk, Greenland. Her poetry on climate change and indigenous peoples has brought her worldwide attention, and she can speak from first-hand knowledge. Her on-the-ground reporting of real-world conditions, combined with Dr. Mathias Nordvig’s expertise on Nordic culture enabled us to shine a light on the climate issues that the people of Greenland face.
The North is Burning and Adaptation is Necessary
The Greenland ice sheet is melting, according to NASA. Aka reports that the summer of 2019 is one of the warmest on record, and she feels the weather is getting more extreme. In the summer of 2017, wildfires burned thousands of acres of land in the Greenland tundra, an all time high since data collection began in 2000.
But the ice is not just melting in Greenland. The entire arctic ice pack has also retreated to very low levels according to NSIDC. The decline of pack ice all around the arctic is not just of interest to Greenland, but Canada, Russia, the United States, and the European Union, where an increase in fires has also been seen.
Aka was in the North this spring to do research and she spoke with hunters and fishermen who reported that the polar bears are starving and terrorizing towns as they search for food. Many of the hunters are switching to fishing, because the ice is pulling back and making it harder to hunt.
Dr. Nordvig tells us the quality of the harp seal is also deteriorating which is adversely impacting the hunters as well.
The polar bear population is larger than ever, and when predators are overpopulated starvation is the standard consequence. But the seals are also overpopulated due to a decline in hunting, so the questions surrounding polar bears, seals, and climate change are complicated.
Reducing Emissions to Combat Climate Change
While there is a broad scientific consensus that climate change is a threat, there are those who suggest that the models breaks down when specific questions are asked, and it becomes unclear as to exactly what will change, when it will change, how much it will change, and how much of this change is due to human activities. In addition, while ice is melting in the north, the Antarctica ice sheet is growing, which raises other questions.
The battle over climate change has existed for decades. One side pushes for legislative action to reduce emissions and to accelerate the transition to green energy. The other side pushes back. But, the result of this wedge issue may not affect climate outcomes in any way, because there’s a third option.Nuclear scientists say fusion or Generation IV power plants can eliminate CO2 emissions while producing clean, safer nuclear energy. Others believe carbon sequestration should be the path forward. Whatever the case, history has shown that energy usage becomes cleaner and more efficient over time, due to market forces. The debate is therefore over whether the rate of innovation is fast enough.
While most people only see the effects of climate change on the news, Greenland is showing the effects on a daily basis. Whether it is due to human activity or not, the climate is changing in Greenland. The landscape is changing, and Aka believes it is too late to stop the change, so her focus is on spreading awareness and helping people adapt.
Military Interests in Greenland
In addition to climate issues surrounding Greenland, the country is in a strategic location. Russia has been increasing their military presence in the arctic circle in anticipation of international disputes over easier access to natural resources, and the United States has responded in kind.
How Greenland fits into this model is unclear, but the United States already has a military presence in the country. As the economic powers shift military assets into the Arctic, Greenland needs to have a plan on how to cope.
New Shipping Routes are Opening
The news is not all bad, however. As the ice retreats new shipping routes may open, and Greenland is receiving attention from countries interested in investing in development. China, the United States, and the European Union are all investing more time and energy in Greenland, and this increased attention may help Greenland discover new ways to adapt and cope with the coming changes. Of course, Greenlanders will want to determine whether to open up their wealth of resources to the world.
As the world continues to become more interconnected, countries that once were enemies are interacting and trading on an ever-increasing basis, and the legacy of military conflict complicates matters as these countries send armies and navies into new territories to protect their interests.
Globalization has brought economic prosperity to many countries in the world, but there are also risks to health and concerns about exploitation. As Greenland assumes more autonomy, it is vital that they take steps to ensure their voices will be heard.
Planning For the Future
As Greenland moves into a future with more autonomy and more warming, it is vital for Greenlanders and the rest of the world to find the best ways to adapt to change and live in harmony with nature and each other.
It was enlightening to talk with Aka Niviâna about Greenland and how climate change is impacting her country. Her first-hand knowledge and experience gave us insight into the people who are most impacted by the ever-changing environment, and the steps that they want to take.To find out more about how climate change is impacting the environment and lives of people in Greenland, watch the full video with Aka Niviâna today. Be sure to subscribe to our website and the PolitiPeeps Youtube channel for notifications on the release of the third video and article in this series.
Featured Image Credit: Greenland Ice Sheet – NASA