Iceland's prime minister is ready to ride the wave of melted polar ice caps to increased food production and export opportunities for his arctic island.
During a recent interview, Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson said that climate change could open up new economic opportunities for the country, according to The Reykjavík Grapevine. "There’s a water shortage, energy is becoming more expensive, land is in short supply and it is predicted that the cost of food will rise in the foreseeable future because of increased demand," Gunnlaugsson said. "So there are great opportunities for Iceland there and we are mapping it out.” Sorry about your luck, Bangladesh!
Gunnlaugsson also referred to The World in 2050, a book on climate change from a geologist at UCLA that argues, among other things, that eight Nordic countries will benefit from rising sea levels and melting glaciers. (At the moment glacial melt is a problem, not an opportunity, in Iceland.) Iceland's minister isn't the first Nordic country to see the money behind climate change: Greenland's ice has been melting at record rates, leading to increased interest in the minerals and resources revealed by the ice. And Russia, along with the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark, are all trying to extend their control of the Arctic — as the ice melts, it leads to more routes for cargo ships and places to drill for oil, writes The National Journal.
But Gunnlaugsson comments came at a particularly tasteless time — the day after Monday's report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As The Wire's Philip Bump explained, the report was pretty bleak. Climate change means that water and food supplies will be affected, some species might go extinct, ocean levels are rising and heat waves and storms will intensify. But! If shipping lanes are opening up thanks to all that melting ice, and food prices are rising in other countries, Gunnlaugsson argued, that could lead to some choice business opportunities, according to the Iceland Review.
Icelanders were not impressed by their prime minister's pragmatism, even if the economic pros end up outweighing the ecological cons for the country for a while. Visir.is, a national news site, said the reaction among Icelanders on social media was negative. Others thought it was a really bad joke. "This must be an April Fools’ joke, the prime minister talking about Iceland’s opportunities in the wake of climate change,” said Reykjavík city councilwoman Björk Vilhelmsdóttir. “We are causing natural disasters and need to slow down, not run after 'opportunities.'”
This is the second time this week an prominent Icelander turned a conservation problem into a business opportunity. President Obama issued a statement this week to "encourage Iceland to halt commercial whaling and support international conservation efforts." Kristján Loftsson, the CEO of Iceland's Hvalur H/F, said this was the fifth letter they'd received from the White House. “This is just business as usual. It’s nothing new,” he said, according to the Grapevine. Earlier this year Iceland made headlines for its whale beer, which contained actual whale flesh procured from Hvalur H/F. No wonder the country is looking to diversify its economy.