Acutely exposed to climate change, many Greenlanders don’t blame humans
Indigenous peoples most affected are least likely to make a connection
A new survey shows that the mostly indigenous population of Greenland is highly aware that the climate is changing, and much more likely than people in other Arctic countries to say they are personally affected. Yet many do not blame human influences, especially those living traditional subsistence lifestyles most directly affected by the impacts of rapidly melting ice and drastic climate change. The study appears this week in the newspaper Natural climate change.
“Greenland is unique in the proportion of people who personally see and experience the effects of climate change. But there is a big disconnect between climate science and local awareness of human-caused climate change,” the lead author said. Minor Keltonpostdoctoral researcher at Columbia University Data Science Institute and the Columbia Climate School. Researchers suggest that educational and cultural factors play a role.
Arctic regions are warming up to four times faster than the global average, and Greenlanders, who depend on freezing seasonal conditions for hunting, fishing and travel, are on the front line. Snow and sea ice, once predictable platforms for moving from place to place and earning a living, are in decline; storms multiply, even in winter; the permafrost is melting; and the mighty central ice sheet is rapidly losing mass. These changes are contributing to creeping sea level rise on distant coasts, but for Greenlanders the effects are immediate.
The study authors surveyed some 1,600 people, or about 4% of Greenland’s adult population. They found that 89% believe climate change is happening, similar to other countries with at least some Arctic territory, including Sweden, Canada, Russia and Iceland. (The exception: the United States, at just 68%.) That said, the proportion of Greenlanders who say they personally experience the effects is more than double that of other Arctic nations, at nearly 80%. Among fishermen, hunters and people living in small rural villages, the proportion is close to 85%.
Yet when asked if humans were driving the changes, only around 50% made that connection, and in rural areas it was only 40%.
The researchers say the study suggests that education plays an important role, noting that many people in rural areas have no secondary education. “Villages don’t have the same access to formal education, especially after primary school, and that can be a big part of the explanation,” Minor said. He points out that climate researchers from around the world have been converging on Greenland for decades and that much of the evidence attributing climate change to humans has emerged from their work. “One of the fundamental insights of modern climate science, derived in part from the Greenland Ice Sheet, may not be widely available to the Greenlandic public,” he said.
Global warming is making its way into almost every aspect of life, sometimes in surprising ways. For example, many people live on narrow strips of ice-free coastal land nestled against the towering inland ice sheet. In some areas, the surface of the ice melts so quickly that it sinks noticeably, like the top of a mountain being bulldozed; as a result, the inhabitants of some settlements enjoy more hours of daylight, as the sun rises over a newly lowered horizon. And, unlike most parts of the world, sea levels here are falling rather than rising. This is partly because as the ice is lost, pressure is removed from the land and it rises. In a land largely devoid of roads, this presents potential blockages to navigation in heavily used but already often shallow coastal waters – the subject of a separate investigation by Columbia scientists.
cultural historian Manumina Lund-Jensen from Ilisimatusarfik University of Greenland and co-author of the study suggests another dimension to beliefs about humans and the environment. “In Greenland, most people interact with If the, (the) Greenlandic spirit of air, time, (which) also describes our consciousness and our connection to the universe,” she said. “Knowledge about If the has been passed down from generation to generation through oral traditions and observations, and can make a difference to its survival and that of others. This view can “increase the psychological distance to the anthropogenic signal in the climate system,” she writes in the study. “Humans may not be seen as powerful compared to If the.”
According to the researchers, people’s general opinion about the drivers of climate change can have practical effects. Example: The world is running out of sand, a key ingredient in concrete. Greenland is swimming there now, as the glaciers retreat, leaving behind vast deposits. Previous search indicates that those aware of human influence on climate are more likely to consider human action to adapt, Minor said, and favor the export of this suddenly available product.
“Perceptions of the impacts and causes of climate change are key drivers of societal climate mitigation and adaptation,” said study co-author Minik Rosing, a geologist at the University of Copenhagen. . “Understanding how perceptions are shaped is fundamental both to climate change research and to informing climate action.”
The researchers write that policy makers and civic institutions should “support the convergence of highly adaptive Inuit knowledge If the and local climate variability with the knowledge of climatologists”, and that climate projections and historical knowledge from the ice sheet “be widely disseminated and integrated into the curricula of primary schools in Greenland, together with Inuit knowledge “.