Greenlanders See Independence and Natural Riches as the Upside of Climate Change
Image from NASA
Where many see a bleak future in climate change, characterized by melting ice caps, water shortages, acidic oceans and mass extinctions, others see an opportunity. Or, to be more precise, lots of dollar signs. Nature's Nicola Jones reports that Greenlanders have just voted en masse in favor of a resolution that would bring them one tantalizing step closer to full-fledged independence from Denmark -- a move spurred primarily by their new-found bullishness over what a warmer world could mean for their country. Image from wili_hybrid
In three words: oil, gas and minerals. The melting ice is opening up once remote areas to better fishery efforts and more oil and gas discovery, two substantial potential sources of income that could help the country free itself from Denmark's financial grasp. (Greenlanders still get almost half of their annual government budget, about $520 million, from the Danes.) Less than a fifth of the country is presently free of ice, making transportation and communication between the cities and smaller villages all but impossible.
Any new oil or gas reserve would be a boon for a country so dependent on subsidies and local fisheries. Couple that with the new mining operations -- Greenland is believed to be rich in diamonds, rubies and other metals -- that will be popping up around the country over the next decade, and you could end up with a significant revenue stream (and don't forget that fancy bottled iceberg water).
At present, the CIA describes it as having 0 percent arable land and no proven oil and gas reserves. According to the USGS, there could be as much as 17 billion barrels' worth of oil (petroleum and natural gas) trapped beneath its western seabed; the eastern seabed could hold up to an additional 31 billion.
The impacts of global warming have been beneficial for the island so far: temperatures have risen twice as fast in Greenland as in the rest of the world, allowing farmers to grow crops that would have been unthinkable even only 10 years ago and abetting some fisheries' recovery. It's too bad the consequences of a melting Greenland wouldn't be so hot for the rest of the world (if you want a brief synopsis of how bad things are, check out this post from Climate Feedback contributor Alexandra Witze):
Of course, the melting of Greenland's ice spells potential disaster for millions of people living in low-lying areas around the world, and is just one symptom of the planet's dangerous transition to a warmer climate.
To make matters worse, Greenlanders would use this opportunity to drill for more oil and gas -- worsening an already terrible situation. I guess you can't really blame them for trying to make the best of a bad situation -- but still.