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Home* News and Stories → Cli­ma­te Report Spits­ber­gen 2100: Con­cern and Many Ques­ti­ons

Cli­ma­te Report Spits­ber­gen 2100: Con­cern and Many Ques­ti­ons

The infor­ma­ti­on that glo­bal warm­ing will hard­ly affect and chan­ge any regi­on of the world as stron­gly as the Arc­tic is any­thing but new. Nevert­hel­ess, the audi­ence beca­me silent when the cli­ma­te report “Cli­ma­te in Sval­bard 2100” was pre­sen­ted last Mon­day at a well-atten­ded citi­zens’ mee­ting at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The result of the report: An avera­ge tem­pe­ra­tu­re increase by seven to ten degrees by the year 2100, signi­fi­cant­ly more and more inten­si­ve rain­fall, mel­ting gla­ciers, tha­wing per­ma­frost soils, the retre­at of sea ice and a shorter win­ter could pro­ba­b­ly radi­cal­ly chan­ge the ever­y­day life of humans and natu­re on Sval­bard within only two gene­ra­ti­ons. Ava­lan­ches and muds­li­des would increase, the water in the rivers would rise and the height of the gla­ciers would fall by more than two met­res per year.

What sounds like the gloo­my hor­ror sce­na­rio of a bad thril­ler is actual­ly a report brought up by the Nor­we­gi­an Cli­ma­te Ser­vice Cent­re for the Minis­try of the Envi­ron­ment, backed by well-respec­ted insti­tu­ti­ons from the fields of meteo­ro­lo­gy, ener­gy and polar rese­arch. In this report, the rese­ar­chers for­mu­la­te fore­casts in case that the goals of the Paris Cli­ma­te Con­fe­rence of 2015 are not going to be achie­ved.

The avera­ge tem­pe­ra­tu­re on Spits­ber­gen has alre­a­dy risen by two degrees com­pared to pre-indus­tri­al times, and this is in fact noti­ceable. Reports of tem­pe­ra­tu­re records have been accu­mu­la­ting in recent years. The win­ter of 2012, for exam­p­le, is likely to be remem­be­red by most inha­bi­tants, when rain, floods and gla­ze ice in Janu­ary remin­ded more of an avera­ge autumn day in nor­t­hern Ger­ma­ny rather than a polar win­ter in the nor­t­hern­most city in the world, around 1000 kilo­me­t­res from the North Pole. Last year, too, the­re were plus degrees and rain in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in Janu­ary, and sin­ce 2010 the­re has been no win­ter with tem­pe­ra­tures below the usu­al aver­a­ges.

The para­dox is that Sval­bard its­elf makes a con­sidera­ble con­tri­bu­ti­on to this deve­lo­p­ment. The sett­le­ments are sup­pli­ed with ener­gy by coal power, the ener­gy source that blows the most CO2 into the atmo­sphe­re. Bes­i­des coal mining, tou­rism is the most important employ­er on Spits­ber­gen. But tou­rists who tra­vel to Spits­ber­gen pri­ma­ri­ly use the two most green­house gas-inten­si­ve means of trans­port, air tra­vel and crui­se ships. And also the locals use most­ly air­planes and snow­mo­bi­les or cars powered by com­bus­ti­on engi­nes.

At the mee­ting, pos­si­ble actions that Sval­bard could take to help achie­ve Norway’s cli­ma­te goals and limit glo­bal warm­ing were dis­cus­sed rather half-hear­ted­ly. Redu­ce the num­ber of flights to and from Spits­ber­gen? Switch to rene­wa­ble ener­gy pro­duc­tion? Neither the head of admi­nis­tra­ti­on Hege Walør, nor Sys­sel­man­nen Kjers­tin Askholt had ans­wers to the­se ques­ti­ons.

Howe­ver Com­mu­ni­ty Coun­cil Arild Olsen came up with the radi­cal idea to make Lon­gye­ar­by­en Norway’s first zero-emis­si­on com­mu­ni­ty.
Whe­ther this is rea­li­stic remains to be seen. Hard­ly anyo­ne denies, howe­ver, that adapt­a­ti­on to cli­ma­te chan­ge is urgen­tly nee­ded, will cost a lot of money and could pos­si­bly lead to chan­ges in legis­la­ti­on.

In Decem­ber 2015, tem­pe­ra­tures of up to nine degrees plus again cau­sed thaw and floo­ding. This river in Bol­terd­a­len is nor­mal­ly dry and fro­zen in win­ter.


Sources: Sval­bard­pos­ten, Cli­ma­te Report: “Cli­ma­te in Sval­bard 2100”



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last modification: 2019-02-08 · copyright: Rolf Stange