Climate Change Could Create New Greenland Export: Sand

Eight percent of annual sediment contribution delivered to the global oceans comes from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Photo: Nicolaj Krog Larsen; Via Maritime Executive

Source Maritime Executive

As climate change melts Greenland’s glaciers and deposits more river sediment on its shores, an international group of researchers has proposed exporting excess sand and gravel abroad, where raw materials for infrastructure are in high demand.

The potentially lucrative solution was developed by scientists from CU Boulder, the University of Copenhagen, Arizona State University and the Rhode Island School of Design.

“Eight percent of the annual sediment contribution delivered to the global oceans comes from the Greenland Ice Sheet, and with continued global warming, this number is expected to increase,” said Mette Bendixen, a researcher at CU Boulder.

Arctic nations such as Greenland struggle with the ongoing effects of climate change, particularly an overreliance on now-vulnerable commercial fisheries and few other large industries. Greenland has sought to diversify its economy for years through mining, oil extraction and tourism, but progress has been slow; the country still reports a 10 percent unemployment rate and persistent revenue shortfalls.

Simultaneously, global sand reserves have been rapidly depleted in recent decades while demand has increased as a result of global urbanization and infrastructure investments.

The study estimates that the amount of sand delivered to Greenland’s coast each year has a market value equivalent to more than half of the Greenland gross domestic product ($2.22 billion in 2015) and this value is expected to double within the next 25 years if the global sand prices continue to increase.

Sand exploitation could be controversial, however, as it would potentially interfere with the pristine Arctic landscape. The study recommends a careful assessment of the environmental impact and implementation in collaboration with the Greenlandic society.