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follow HonkpilledMaster 2018 Jan 26, 6:30pm
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A few dozen kilometers northeast of Nuuk, Greenland’s capital and largest city, a remote power plant is thriving because of the extra water coming from the melt of ancient glaciers.The Buksefjord hydroelectric station is the biggest of five built since 1993 in order to disencumber the country from imported oil. Outside the plant, some employees now grow turnips and potatoes on land once too cold for anything but reindeer and lichen, while close to the station, cod, usually only seen much further south, flourish in the pristine water.As with the rest of the Arctic region, Greenland is warming twice as fast as the global average: Since the early 1950s, the temperature in Greenland has risen by 1.5°C, compared with approximately 0.7°C worldwide.In large part, this is because of the “albedo effect.” Albedo is a coefficient measuring the ratio of reflected solar radiation to total incoming solar radiation. A high albedo means the surface reflects the majority of the radiation that hits it and absorbs the rest. A low albedo means the opposite. Snow-covered sea ice has a high albedo, reflecting up to 85% of sunlight....But here’s the rub: the global thaw has the potential to bring Greenland’s tiny population a tremendous windfall.In 2015, after three years of contraction, there was economic growth in Greenland partly because a range of new opportunities brought by climate changes. Although agriculture isn’t a major part of Greenland’s economy, higher temperatures in the southern region have made growing seasons longer than a decade ago, enabling expanded production of existing crops, like potatoes. Meanwhile, new crops like carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, strawberries, apples, and broccoli can now be grown as the frozen tundra retreats northwards due to an increasingly early Arctic spring, making for more areas suitable for agriculture.While Greenland’s main export remains cold-water shrimp—locally known as the “pink gold”—in recent years rising temperatures are attracting new types of harvestable fish like the Atlantic Bluefin tuna and mackerel, species pretty much never sighted in the waters off Greenland until 2011.In 2015, almost 80,000 tons of mackerel were caught; paired with prices that have been steadily rising since 2012, it made for good earnings for companies like Royal Greenland, owned by the government, and Polar Seafood, Greenland’s biggest private company. “Of course climate change is bad,” says Henrik Leth, chairman of Polar Seafood and leader of the Greenland Business Association. “But, alas, I can’t say it isn’t good overall for Greenland.”Atlantic Bluefin tuna, which command huge prices on the open market, are being caught off the coast of Greenland for the first time in years. (Tony Gentile/Reuters)Warmer temperatures are also helping the country bring back the Greenland cod, a pivotal species whose total disappearance in the early 1990s was caused by overfishing and a four degree Celsius drop in the water temperature—and which deeply affected the country’s economy. Now that the seas around Greenland are at the highest temperatures since 1960s, cod are making their way back home, and some Greenlanders are reaping the rewards. For example, Kim Hoegh-Dam, who runs the Qaqortoq-based firm Arctic Prime Production, spent $1 million on a small fleet of cod trawlers and three processing plants 10 years ago. “It was clear warming temperatures would have brought cod and other species up from the south,” he says. Arctic Prime now exports its marine products worldwide.