Global Warming Good for Greenland?

October 17, 2007

For some in Greenland these days, the grass is looking greener.

Rapid thawing brought on by global warming on the world's largest island has opened up new opportunities for agriculture, commercial fishing, mining, and oil exploration. The island's native people, though, may not be on the "winning" side of warming.

(Get the basics on global warming.)

Scientists now report Arctic temperatures are rising almost twice as fast as elsewhere in the world. (Related news: "Greenland Ice Sheet Is Melting Faster, Study Says" [August 10, 2006].)

A new WWF Denmark report released last week studied the effects of climate change on the people of Greenland, which is a self-governing territory of Denmark.

"The warmer climate will have a definite positive effect on Greenland's economic possibilities and development," the report said.

(See a photo gallery of warming's effects on Greenland.)

Positive Effects

In southwestern Greenland, for example, the grass-growing season gets longer each year, boosting productivity for some 60 sheep farms now established in the region. Up to 23,500 sheep and lambs are slaughtered annually.

Dairy cattle have recently been reintroduced, and a government-led project is expected to yield 29,058 gallons (110,000 liters) of milk annually, according to the new report.

Locally grown potatoes have appeared in supermarkets, alongside broccoli and other vegetables never before cultivated in Greenland.

Commercial fishermen are anticipating bumper cod catches after the fish recently moved north into Greenland's waters. Halibut are also increasing in size.

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