Global Warming and the Arctic Economy

By:  Rebecca Terrell
10/11/2012
       
Global Warming and the Arctic Economy

Climate change is destroying traditional cultures and economies in Greenland, according to a recently published article in the New York Times. Correspondent Elizabeth Rosenthal highlights Narsaq, a town on the southern coast where the mainstay fishing industry is dwindling due to stock depletion in ever-warming waters. Yet melting ice is uncovering "vast new deposits of minerals and gems ... forming the basis of a potentially lucrative mining industry" that could one day mean independence for Greenland from its parent state of Denmark.

Climate change is destroying traditional cultures and economies in Greenland, according to a recently published article in the New York Times. Correspondent Elizabeth Rosenthal highlights Narsaq, a town on the southern coast where the mainstay fishing industry is dwindling due to stock depletion in ever-warming waters. She reports a 50-percent decline in population in the past 10 years and a rising suicide rate. A local fisherman told her, "Lots of people have lost their livelihoods." Yet melting ice is uncovering "vast new deposits of minerals and gems ... forming the basis of a potentially lucrative mining industry" that could one day mean independence for Greenland from its parent state of Denmark.

Meanwhile, roughly five degrees latitude north of Narsaq, the fishing industry is exploding in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, Canada. Writing for the Winnipeg Free Press, columnist Gerald Flood says the shrinking Arctic ice cap is fostering a commercial fishing industry along "two thirds of Canada's coast that had never been fished except for subsistence." The thaw is also making it possible to chart the Arctic sea floor for the first time in history, meaning safer travel not only for fishermen but also for increasing cruise ship traffic from a flourishing Canadian tourist industry.

These changes are unlikely to be short-lived. The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) confirms a long-term downward trend in Arctic sea ice extent, noting the lowest seasonal minimum during this past summer in more than 30 years. Whether climate change is to be the hero or villain in such industry ebbs and flows as those noted above, the warming taking place is anything but global. Last week, Graham Lloyd of The Australian cited NSIDC data showing that "Antarctic sea ice has expanded to cover the largest area recorded since satellite mapping began more than three decades ago, in stark contrast to this year's record melt on the northern pole."

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