A couple years ago I visited the Greenland – Head for the Centre of the World exhibit at the Danish Architecture Center in Copenhagen. It was incredibly informative about what life is like on the island, and what obstacles the country faces, not just from the climate. The island is home to very few people and most live along the coast. Travel between cities is done almost exclusively by boat.
One aspect of the exhibit threw me for a loop through, and expanded how I think about climate change. Nearly universal is the belief that climate change will be bad for everyone. Overtime, I believe it will be devastating for humans. However, this exhibit, in particular the Possible Greenland portion of it, cast a different light on how climate change and global warming can have a positive effect on places such as Greenland. Possible Greenland explores what options become available for Greenland as its ice sheet melts and the Arctic no longer remains frozen. The Northwest Passage is now a thing. One aspect of the exhibit explores what opportunities open up for Greenland when ships from Northern Europe can travel to Asia by going north of Canada instead of across the Panama Canal or through Suez Canal. Travel times are less, threats of violence are less. The project explores how Greenland could take advantage of this situation to spur economic growth.
Another element that could provide economic growth for Greenland would be the massive melting of its ice cap. I’ve flown over Greenland a few times on my way back to the States from England and it’s impressive. The ice is endless. Occasionally you’ll see a mountain top peaking through the ice. The interior of Greenland is a very inhospitable place. Huge portions of the country are national parks and wildlife preserves. As the ice sheet melts and the summers warm, there is an opportunity for adventure sports to be possible.
I hadn’t thought of it in this light before. It’s an interesting thought experiment for sure. In the end, I think the melting of Greenland’s ice sheets will be incredibly damaging for most of the world, and probably much of the wildlife that calls the island home. However, it’s interesting to think about about what economic opportunities arise from this situation, and how Greenlanders could position themselves to have better lives as a result.