June 23, 2010

Read This Now: National Geographic

I recommend that if you're in an airport or have spare time to read whilst enduring the summer heat (or time at your desk to read it online), you should pick up the June National Geographic before it's off the shelves. Its cover story, "Greenland:Ground Zero for Global Warming," is not full of fun and interesting facts about Arctic competition or naval actvity of Arctic countries. It does, however, paint a pleasant picture of the changing environmental conditions in Greenland, the ice on which is melting faster than in most other areas of the world, and tee up the must-know political and economic dynamics that Denmark and Greenland are eyeing given the changing climate.

Greenland's independence from Denmark, if it transpires, hinges on natural resources - specifically, seabed and offshore resources that may well be uncovered in the coming decades as climate change opens up previously iced-in areas. This includes oil and minerals (especially minerals) and potentially a greater ability to produce its own food rather than having to purchase imports. However, the latter point is unclear. Thawing and increasing meltwater are showing signs they may increase agricultural productivity, but it seems that shrimp stocks are on the wane - a daunting prospect when more than 80% of its export income is from fishing. Worse, no one can determine with certainty what's causing these declines.

This is the best quick piece on the projected effects of climate change in Greenland, in particular if you want to read up on its oil and minerals potential. But, from fish stocks to a quick overview of Viking history in the country, what you'll get most out of this article is a sense for how environmental change can factor into the economic, political, cultural and historical existence of a population. Change can be destabilizing, including when it brings newfound wealth. Much of the field of examining the security effects of climate change is going to have to integrate this kind of multidisciplinary overview of specific locations. It is a good thing, then, that reporters and scholars are documenting Greenland as it changes so that we can better understand what dynamics to pay attention to in analyzing security and geopolitical impacts. It's a case we should all be tracking. Happy reading, everyone!