PM Causes Controversy over Climate Change Comments

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PM Causes Controversy over Climate Change Comments

By Zoë Robert

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson said in an interview with RÚV earlier this week that although climate change has serious negative impacts for the world overall, it may create opportunities for Icelanders through food production and exports. 

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report was released on March 31. “The effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans,” and the world is mostly “ill-prepared” for the risks that the sweeping changes present, the report concludes.

The prime minister told RÚV that the results of the report were ambiguous and that Iceland still had the chance to respond to climate change. He referred to Laurence C. Smith’s The World in 2050 which predicts that eight Nordic countries and regions will prosper as a result of climate change.

Sigmundur pointed to the opportunities for oil and gas exploration and the opening up of shipping lanes as a result of the melting of ice in the Arctic. A shortage of land and water in other countries as well as the rising costs of energy and food could bring opportunities for Iceland as a food producer, Sigmundur added.

He acknowledged that while Iceland was responsible for CO2 emissions like other countries, that Iceland was in many ways an exemplary model when it came to the environment.

The interview has caused controversy with Icelanders taking to social media to express their anger over the prime minister’s comments, visir.is reports. Reykjavík City Councilor for the Social Democrats, Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, was among those who said that Sigmundur’s comments must have been a joke. “This must have been an April Fools’ Day joke, the prime minister talking about the opportunities that climate change presents for Iceland … We need to slow down—not run after “opportunities,” she said. 

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