Record temperatures threaten traditional ways of life in Greenland but as the sea ice retreats, new mining, fishing and tourism investments possibilities are helping communities to adapt
Asked if he is fearful about the impact of climate change, Tnnes Kaka Berthelsens response is typical of many Greenlanders. We are more worried about the Maldives, he told bluntly.
Greenland has lived with extreme environmental changes for a decade or more. Sea ice is forming 2 months later and melting one month earlier. River fed by retreating glaciers are at record levels. And temperature records were smashed twice this year, with stunned meteorologists rechecking their measurings after 24 C was recorded in the capital, Nuuk, in June.
Traditional hunters are giving up their dog squads because there is three months less hunting on sea ice but climate change is no disaster, according to Berthelsen, the deputy manager of Knapk, Greenlands hunters and fishers association. The 56,000 dwellers of the largest island in the world that is not a continent must adapt, fast.
In the sea, new fish species are arriving. On land, the melting ice is set to uncover a wealth of zinc, iron, uranium, gold, and rare earth components that some predict is likely to be the largest deposits outside China.
Greenland believes that climate change will bequeath the wealth to win the ultimate political prize: full independence from Denmark. The country gained self-rule in 2009 but its economy is still sustained by a 3.2 bn kroner( 362 m) annual grant from its former colonial masters.
The vast majority more than 90% of Greenlands export income is from fish, and 2016 was the best ever year, according to Berthelsen. Greenlands pink gold, cold-water shrimp, is moving further north and new fish species mackerel, herring, cod and Atlantic bluefin tuna are entering the countrys waters. We havent considered such big cod stocks since the 1970 s, said Berthelsen.
But in the far north, climate change is hastening the decline of hunting. The traditional way of life is very challenged, said Bjarne Ababsi Lyberth, a biologist and hunting expert for the Association of Fishers and Hunters. People used to go hunting for weeks on the sea ice. They would go so far out they couldnt insure any land. Now they can traveling merely for one day by ocean ice, theres too much open water and its unstable.
Greenland has three climate forms polar, Arctic and sub-Arctic and the effects on the nation, its people and wildlife are varied. In the polar region, hunters report that polar bears havent changed much told Lyberth, and still look in good health. Further south, the bears have less body fat and are considered more frequently near villages, scavenging for food. Hunters also find it is impossible to store their meat in caches on the ice, as they once did, because hungry polar bears take it.
The changes that Europe and the rest of the world are becoming aware of have been going on in Greenland for 10 or 20 years, said Lyberth. Its not something that scares people. Its more a question of adapting.
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