Greenland’s Unique Position on Climate Change – POLITICO

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This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center.

NARSAQ, NUUK, and ILULISSAT, Greenland

As the most serene and majestic backdrop to our planet’s climate catastrophe, Greenland’s landscape is just as unique as its perspective on climate change.

Unlike almost anywhere else, Greenland officially views climate change as a positive possibility – one that brings opportunities to this independent country within the Danish kingdom. And as the world’s least densely populated country on the largest non-continent island, it’s easy to see why many here are keen to see what the changing future might hold.

Angotemaric, harvesting potatoes and radishes from his land in the Nuuk Fjord, is a sheep farm and agricultural farm in the far north.
Angotimaric says the increased rains, floods and subsequent snow are killing his crops and the grasses his sheep feed on.
Angotimaric arrives by boat to his arctic farm.
The farm is run by Rasmus Jacobsen, above, who moved to Greenland from Denmark six years ago and saw a gap in the market for fresh vegetables — most of which must be imported.
The Greenlandic Greenhouse, the country’s only lettuce farm, is housed inside a warehouse that allows year-round growth.

Former Prime Minister Elijah Hammond once claimed that “Greenlanders are very good at seeing new opportunities. We’ve refused to be victims of climate change… I wish it wouldn’t happen but it does and that’s true. Once he’s there, [we] You have an obligation [make] Best of all.”

This is a rare and unique perspective among world governments, and as might be expected, it is not as straightforward as it appears.

Smiles Rasmus Damsgaard Jacobsen, founder and director of the Greenlandic Greenhouse, a year-round lettuce and vegetable farm in the capital city of Nuuk, home to a quarter of the country’s 56,000 population.

A sheep farmer leads his flock to a ship bound for Greenland’s only slaughterhouse.
The sheep are being transported by boat in the upper Narsaq fjords, on their way to a nearby slaughterhouse,
Icebergs seen from a captain’s cabin sailing through the Narsk Fjord in southern Greenland.
A ship carrying sheep for slaughter sails around an iceberg in the Upper Narsaq Fjords.
Sheep are packed tightly onto a boat in the upper Narsaq fjords, on their way to a nearby slaughterhouse.
Sheep skins are piled up after being cleaned and salted at Negi, Greenland’s only slaughterhouse.
The southern provinces of Greenland have always been more fertile because of their mild climate, although in recent years more rain and less snow have taken a toll on the grazing fields, as the ice has killed all the grasses.
Neqi, Greenland’s only slaughterhouse, sees peak activity at the end of summer.

Amidst the brilliant purple glow that streams from his “farm” through the gray and dull surroundings, Rasmus strolls narrow LED-lit hallways stacked with virgin lettuce, the radio blaring.

About 300 meters from its front door, the new capital’s new airport is being built, which will finally allow direct international flights, 24/7. One of three new airports to be built, these projects provide a glimpse into the country’s increasing focus on tourism and infrastructure.

Noting that the construction work never stops, Rasmus believes that better days lie ahead. “I agree that climate change holds a lot of possibilities and benefits for Greenland. There’s a lot of land here, and they don’t quite know what’s under a lot of ice, so it can definitely get interesting, and tourism brings big opportunities,” he said.

The Icefjord Centre, on the outskirts of Ilulissat, educates visitors to the area.
Paul Cohen stains the wooden exterior of one of his homes in Narsaq, southern Greenland. Originally from the United States, Paul and his German wife, Monica, moved to Greenland decades ago. Working remotely as a translator, Paul and Monika also run a small property rental business, usually catering to independent travelers and tourists. In Narsaq Bay, behind Paul, a cruise ship approaches the shore.
The town of Narsaq in southern Greenland is home to Greenland’s only slaughterhouse, major agricultural and culinary schools, and a large potato farm. The city has also become a frequent stop for cruise ships, as the ice and glaciers are receding, increasing the city’s potential for future tourism growth.
Residential council in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. A recent walk along the shoreline around the old town with its historic buildings, to the new concrete blocks.
Student chefs smoke whale meat at the Inwili Cooking School in Narsaq. The school hosts students of all ages from across the country, advocating new ways of preparing traditional Greenlandic food.

The Headteacher has seen more older students enroll in recent years, as they explore new career paths. The country is experiencing a brain drain as its younger population sees more opportunities in Denmark than back home.

However, Sarah Woodall’s experience at Innovation South Greenland – an industry-integrated tourism company funded by the Qaqortoq region of southern Greenland – reveals a double-edged sword felt by many locals. “There is a rush of tourists visiting Greenland to watch the ice sheet melt before it’s gone forever, but I don’t think that rush is necessary. The ice sheet is three kilometers thick, and it will outlive all of us.” “Obviously the downside is that the more tourists visit, the more emissions they produce.”

To the south, in the small farming town of Narsaq, melt water unpolluted by mankind trickles down from glaciers, past the colorful homes dotting the mountainous landscape. Icebergs drift leisurely around the bay, displaying the occasional creak or crack, in what seems like an ever-changing postcard scene – until a large cruise ship docks in the late afternoon, vomiting mass tourism into town for one night.

Woodall Put The annual number is about 50,000 cruise ship visitors, with another 5,000 “on land” tourists. She echoes locals, warning of the unsustainable growth of tourism and groans at the sudden arrival of thousands of people taking selfies and treating their hometown like an amusement park, while giving little cash.

The Northern Lights dance across the night sky in southern Greenland.
An iceberg stands high in Narsk Fjord, in southern Greenland.
Sled dogs are on a leash during the summer months in Ilulissat, home to much of Greenland’s sled dog. Working dogs have traditionally been used for ice fishing, hunting, and transportation between rural and isolated settlements in the northern part of the country.
Fishing net in Narsaq Harbour, Greenland.
Icebergs drift in the Narsaq Fjord in southern Greenland.

“We want to reduce the number of ships to those of the AECO (Association of Arctic Cruise Operators), as they are more sustainable, and work more with local communities. We hope for more small groups that are sensitive and culturally aware.”

But as the icebergs slowly break up, it rains more frequently and the growing seasons grow a little longer. Small, subtle changes but with a big impact here in Greenland, where the world’s largest island is feeling the effects of our changing planet four times faster than anywhere else.

Back in Nuuk, Angotemarik Hansen, a sheep farmer in Far North Greenland, explains the dilemma of climate change. “Now there is a lot of rain and snow. We need more snow, because it keeps my field warm, and protects the grazing grass underneath. With all that snow of past winters, my lawn is dying.” Barren, wet or frozen fields mean that Angutemarik, like his 13 other sheep farmers in Greenland, must import most of his feed and forage from abroad, driving up the cost to consumers.

Ole Vestergaard of Neqi’s only abattoir in Greenland provides some context: “Both farmers and Neqi are now receiving government support, and they have provided an additional support package to farmers to help with the above normal price increase.” He adds that global warming is “not a positive thing for farmers here”.

Sheep are brought down from a pure slaughterhouse.
Annually from small farms in the surrounding fjord, flocks of sheep are herded aboard a ship bound for Narsaq, home to the only slaughterhouse in the country.

Fishing accounts for 90 percent of Greenland’s export economy, and it is also among the industries that have seen the most dramatic changes over the past decades.

When the waters around Narsaq, part of the country’s so-called “dining room,” increased by only about 0.5 degrees Celsius, what was attractively referred to as Greenland’s “pink gold” shrimp left the area for cooler waters further north. Tuna and mackerel are now caught regularly where they were rarely seen before, and cod numbers have skyrocketed around Ilulissat, the country’s third largest city, just above the Arctic Circle.

Seagulls dive for scraps of fish that fishermen have thrown overboard at Disco Bay.
Piiteraq, a Greenlandic fisherman from Ilulissat, is driving his boat in Disko Bay.
A dead fish floats in the disco bay, while icebergs loom on the horizon. As the waters warm, other marine life moves to the north.
Piiteraq, a hunter from Greenland, catches his catch. Originally from Ilulissat in western Greenland, Piiteraq usually makes the trek to nearby Disco Bay on a daily basis. He expects to have to go further to obtain the required quantity in the future, if sea temperatures continue to change.
Ilulissat, 250 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, is home to the country’s major fishing industry.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Ilulissat, the fields between the suburbs are home to hundreds of working sled dogs, who now spend their long summers in chains, howling at the sky. Shorter, warmer winters mean dogs have to roam longer and away from ice fishing and hunting during the season.

Shepherds now have about an extra month to graze their flocks, as the summer has become milder and longer. But Vertergrad says that despite this, the number of sheep and sheep processed annually has remained stable over the past four years.

Overall, it is too early to tell whether or not Greenland will be able to adapt its industries and reap the benefits it believes climate change will bring. But whatever happens, as former Prime Minister Hammond put it“The shock will be profound.”

The harbor at Narsaq, southern Greenland, has seen an increase in tourist arrivals by cruise ship as the water becomes less clogged with ice during the summer months…and even during the milder days of winter. It will be one of three proposed new projects in the country just a short boat ride away, in the city of Qaqortoq. Others are in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. and Ilulissat on the west coast.

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