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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visits Greenland: ice melting uncovers riches but rising strong concerns

4 May 2014

Climate change: a subject that gathers global leaders in a common cause. The impacts are felt increasingly as floods and storms change our perception of nature. For Greenland, it has meant an even greater expansion of global interest, both in science and industry. The melting of the ice has made the mineral resources of Greenland more accessible. However, the industrial interests and global climate change agenda does not reflect on the impacts felt by the Inuit who have lived in the harsh nature for 5000 years. The changes felt globally are, indeed, also felt locally.

In preparation for the United Nation(UN) Climate Change summit in New York in September, where Premier Aleqa Hammond is invited to speak, the (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, visited Greenland to get a first-hand impression of the changes in the Arctic. What Ban Ki-moon found was that the sea level rise and the ice melting is felt at first hand. The melting of the ice is estimated to contribute by 1/3 to the sea level rise and the livelihoods of local hunters and fishermen are undergoing steady changes. It seems that the Greenlanders will have to prove their resilience to nature once more now that the changes in season are increasingly substantial.

For Greenlanders, the landscape of ice is not an impediment but an important resource. The ice becomes a mean for transportation during the winter as well as a hunting and fishing ground. In the past years the thick sea ice season has been cut back by two months and in 2012 the sea ice surrounding Greenland reached a record low with an astonishing 93% ice-free ocean in September. The headlines of the Greenlandic newspaper provides Ban Ki-moon’s response of his visits to Ilulissat and Uummannaq: “I am deeply disturbed by what I see and hear”.