As ice melts, Greenland could become big sand exporter: Scientists

OSLO (REUTERS) – Greenland could start to export sand in a rare positive spinoff from global warming that is melting the island’s vast ice sheet and washing large amounts of sediment into the sea, scientists said on Monday (Feb 11).

Mining of sand and gravel, widely used in the construction industry, could boost the economy for Greenland’s 56,000 population who have wide powers of self-rule within Denmark but rely heavily on subsidies from Copenhagen.

By mining sand, “Greenland could benefit from the challenges brought by climate change,” a team of scientists in Denmark and the United States wrote in the journal Nature Sustainability.

The study, headlined “Promises and perils of sand exploitation in Greenland”, said the Arctic island would have to assess risks of coastal mining, especially to fisheries.

Rising global temperatures are melting the Greenland ice sheet, which locks up enough water to raise global sea levels by about seven metres if it ever all thawed, and carrying ever more sand and gravel into coastal fjords.

“You can think of it (the melting ice) as a tap that pours out sediment to the coast,” said lead author Mette Bendixen, a researcher at the University of Colorado’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.

Worldwide demand for sand totalled about 9.55 billion tonnes in 2017 with a market value of US$99.5 billion (S$135.4 billion) and is projected to reach almost US$481 billion in 2100, driven by rising demand and likely shortages, the study said.

That meant a rare opportunity for the island.

“Normally the Arctic peoples are among those who really feel climate change – the eroding coast, less permafrost,” said Bendixen. “This is a unique situation because of the melting ice sheet.”

David Boertmann of Aarhus University, who was not involved in the study, said there was already some local mining of sand for the domestic construction industry in Greenland.

Drawbacks for Greenland, common to other mining projects on the island ranging from uranium to rare earth minerals, include the distance to markets in Europe and North America, he said.

Still, Bendixen said sand was already often transported long distances, such as to Los Angeles from Vancouver or from Australia to Dubai.

“At the moment it is an inexpensive resource but it will become more expensive,” she said.

The study said that sand and gravel might also be used in future to reinforce beaches and coastlines at risk of rising sea levels, caused in part by Greenland’s thaw.


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Denmark mulls labelling food based on its environmental impact

Denmark wants to reduce pollution caused by the food industry in order to have zero emissions by year 2050.

    The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gases than cars, planes, trains and ships combined. But that doesn’t reflect anywhere on meat products.

    Denmark wants to change the practice. The Scandinavian country is considering laws which would require food manufacturers and supermarkets to label products with a rating of their impact on the environment.


    Al Jazeera’s Fleur Launspach reports.

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    Afghanistan, Denmark, Hakuna Matata: Your Friday Briefing

    (Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

    Good morning.

    A chaotic day in the U.S., contentious handshakes in Denmark and worries over Hakuna Matata.

    Here’s the latest:

    The Trump administration will withdraw about 7,000 troops from Afghanistan.

    Roughly half of the U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan will leave in the coming months, defense officials said.

    The news came on the same day Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense whose experience and stability were widely seen as a balance to an unpredictable president, resigned in protest over President Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from Syria. Read Mr. Mattis’s resignation letter here.

    Background: The withdrawal comes at a time when the Afghan Taliban have been gaining momentum, seizing territory and killing Afghan security forces in record numbers.

    Why it matters: Mr. Trump’s choice to retreat from the two conflicts scrambled the geopolitics of the Middle East and rattled U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

    A U.S. government shutdown looms.

    A deal to avert a government shutdown was teetering on Thursday after President Trump said he would not sign a stopgap spending bill if it did not include funding for a wall on the southwestern border.

    The House approved a version of the bill Thursday evening that allocated $5.7 billion for the border wall, but it is almost certain to die in the Senate, where it would need bipartisan support.

    Why it matters: The chaos in Washington dragged stock prices lower in the U.S. and extended a sell-off around the world. It also means the Transportation Security Administration and air traffic control agencies could run out of money ahead of one of America’s busiest travel weekends.

    Required for a Danish citizenship: a handshake.

    Starting next month, new Danish citizens must shake hands at their naturalization ceremony, under a new law aimed at Muslim immigrants.

    Some religious Muslims refuse to touch members of the opposite sex outside their immediate families. Critics have derided the law as awkward, “purely symbolic” and irrelevant to an applicant’s qualifications.

    But some politicians defended the new rule, saying it indicates a foreigner’s willingness to assimilate. “If one can’t do something that simple and straightforward, there’s no reason to become a Danish citizen,” said one lawmaker.

    Why it matters: This is the latest in a series of anti-immigrant measures in Denmark. The government recently announced plans to isolate certain migrants it wants to deport on a small, out-of-the-way island, and this summer, the Parliament prohibited the wearing of face veils in public.

    Separately: The prime minister of Belgium resigned amid a populist revolt over his migration policy, which opponents said threatens the country’s sovereignty. He was under pressure from the right and left.

    “It’s a dark day for German journalism.”

    The firing of a star journalist, Claas Relotius, who fabricated stories for Germany’s most respected newsmagazine, Der Spiegel, is quickly turning into one of the country’s biggest journalism scandals.

    And “Spiegelgate,” as it is referred to on social media, could not have come at a worse time.

    Why: The idea of “fake news,” often propagated by President Trump, has been used by populists on both sides of the Atlantic to undermine mainstream news media. In Germany, the far right uses the term “Lügenpresse,” or “lying press,” which was used by the Nazis in the 1920s before they rose to power.

    Here’s what else is happening

    U.S.-China tensions: The Justice Department accused two Chinese nationals with ties to the country’s Ministry of State Security of trying to steal technology secrets from a range of industries, including aviation and pharmaceuticals, and several government entities, including the Navy.

    Gatwick Airport: London’s second-busiest airport shut down for more than 24 hours, leaving tens of thousands of passengers stranded during peak holiday season, after a drone was seen flying over the runway.

    Morocco: The authorities there arrested three more suspects in the killings of two Scandinavian tourists in the Atlas Mountains, in what Danish officials suggested was an act of terror linked to the Islamic State.

    Carlos Ghosn: The former Nissan chairman was arrested again by Japanese authorities, this time on suspicion that he shifted more than $16 million in personal losses incurred a decade ago to the automaker. The rearrest dealt a setback to Mr. Ghosn’s hopes for getting released from the Tokyo jail where he has been held for more than a month on different charges.

    Yellow Vests: The protests showed how globalization and its inequities have led to a crisis of mobility — geographic, economic and social — in France.

    Hakuna Matata™: Disney popularized the phrase worldwide with “The Lion King” — and then claimed it as its intellectual property. Now tens of thousands of people have signed a petition calling the 20-plus-year-old trademark an “assault on the Swahili people.”

    Nazis: A couple in Britain who named their child Adolf out of admiration for Hitler have been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for belonging to a violent neo-Nazi group.

    Opioid epidemic: Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death in America, surpassing car crashes and gun violence. We spent months interviewing users, family members and addiction experts to create a visual representation of the strong lure of powerful drugs, like heroin.

    Pop music 2.0: The definition of the music genre has been completely dismantled in the last couple of years, with subgenres rising to the top of the charts owing in large part to streaming platforms.

    Smarter Living

    Tips for a more fulfilling life.

    Recipe of the day: Tempura-fried green beans — hot, crunchy and irresistible with a sweet-and-spicy mustard sauce.

    Party dress codes: the dos and don’ts.

    Help the environment by tuning up your heating system. Here’s how.

    Back Story

    Today is the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice, also known as the shortest day of the year — shorthand for the day that gets the least sunlight.

    Some of us earthlings may grumble about the darkness. But without it, we might not be alive.

    Seasons occur because most planets do not spin perfectly upright like a top. The earth’s “axial tilt” is a jaunty 23.5 degrees, for example, while Uranus spins at 98 degrees, or nearly sideways.

    The earth’s tilt is good for humans because it helps to moderate our sun exposure. Our four seasons are comparatively mild and, thanks to our proximity to the sun, fairly brief.

    Much of Uranus, by contrast, spends winters in permanent darkness and summers under constant sunlight. And those seasons last decades in Earth years.

    “If there were creatures on Uranus — and I don’t think there are — seasonal affective disorder would be a lifetime thing,” the planetary scientist Heidi Hammel told The Times.

    Mike Ives, a reporter in our Hong Kong office, wrote today’s Back Story.

    Your Morning Briefing is published weekday mornings.

    Check out this page to find a Morning Briefing for your region. (In addition to our European edition, we have Australian, Asian and U.S. editions.)

    Sign up here to receive an Evening Briefing on U.S. weeknights, and here’s our full range of free newsletters.

    What would you like to see here? Contact us at [email protected].

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    Danish pension giant puts new investments with Macquarie on hold

    COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark’s largest pension fund ATP said on Wednesday it had put new investments with Macquarie Group (MQG.AX) on hold pending an investigation of the Australian company’s involvement in a dividend stripping scandal.

    ATP and two other Danish pension funds earlier this year partnered with Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA), the world’s largest infrastructure asset manager, to buy Danish cable and telecoms operator TDC in a $6.6 billion deal.

    Macquarie said in September its incoming and outgoing chief executives were expected to be named as suspects by German prosecutors after its bank lent money to investment funds that engaged in dividend stripping.

    “Had ATP been aware of the circumstances in question, ATP would not have made the investment in TDC with MIRA,” the pension fund said in a written statement to the ministry of employment published on Wednesday. ATP said it expected the investigation into dividend stripping to take several years.

    Macquarie has said it had believed the practice to be legal, and that it was not involved in any such activity in Denmark. It was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

    “ATP has initiated a critical dialogue with Macquarie, and ATP will not make new investments with MIRA or any other companies in the Macquarie Group before this critical dialogue and “self-cleaning” process has been completed satisfactorily,” the pension fund said.

    ATP is Europe’s fourth largest pension fund with around $120 billion of assets under management and handles mandatory pensions for more than 5 million Danes.

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    Denmark ‘returns Rwanda genocide suspect’

    Denmark has extradited a genocide suspect to Rwanda, according to the authorities in the African nation.

    Rwandan prosecutors accuse Wenceslas Twagirayezu, 50, of inciting violence during the 1994 genocide.

    He is alleged to have led a pro-Hutu militia in the north-west of the country that targeted ethnic Tutsis during the 100-day genocide.

    He has lived in Denmark since 2001 and had been fighting against his extradition through the courts.

    According to Rwanda’s pro-government New Times, Mr Twagirayezu is the second Rwandan to be extradited from Denmark. The first, Emmanuel Mbarushimana, was sentenced to life in prison in 2017, three years after his extradition.

    Rwanda scrapped the death penalty in 2007 in an effort to encourage countries that oppose capital punishment to hand over genocide suspects.

    It has issued international arrest warrants for more than 800 people it accuses of committing atrocities during 100 days of bloodshed in 1994.

    An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the violence.

    More on Rwanda’s genocide:

    During the genocide, Mr Twagirayezu was a local official of the Coalition for the Defence of the Republic (CDR), a radical pro-Hutu party accused of inciting as well as carrying out violence.

    A former primary school teacher, he led a local militia that operated in Rubavu District and which is suspected of planning the killing of civilians who had sought refuge at a university, the New Times reports.

    Mr Twagirayezu, who has been in custody in Denmark since May 2017, is expected to arrive at the airport in the capital, Kigali, on Tuesday evening, the paper says.

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    Denmark, Britain top global league for climate measures: Report

    LONDON (REUTERS) – Denmark and Britain are the top countries when it comes to implementing measures to fight climate change, although Britain has lagged in phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, a report published by academics said on Wednesday (Dec 5).

    The report was launched as delegates from more than 190 nations meet in Poland to flesh out how to reach commitments made under the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep the rise in global temperature below 2 deg C this century.

    Denmark, Britain and Canada have made the most progress in transforming their energy sectors towards meeting the targets, said the report by researchers from Britain’s Imperial College, commissioned by British power generator Drax.

    “We researched how the world is progressing on uptake of the five key technologies and measures needed to limit climate change to 2 deg C. This reveals Denmark, UK and Canada to be world leading,” said Imperial’s Iain Staffell.

    The five technologies are clean power, fossil fuels, electric vehicles, capacity for carbon storage, and energy efficiency of households, buildings and transport.

    Denmark has decarbonised its electricity sector, moving away from coal, installing renewables and reducing fossil fuel subsidies by 90 per cent over the last decade.

    Britain has invested heavily in offshore wind and plans to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2025.

    Canada has also installed renewables and is building facilities to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions.

    The report assessed the climate change measures of 25 major countries, including all of the Group of Seven and Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), which together represent 80 per cent of the world’s population and 73 per cent of its carbon emissions.

    Britain, however, remained the sixth-largest subsidiser of fossil fuels among the 25 countries, the report showed, based on data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) up until 2016.

    According to the OECD definition of a fossil fuel subsidy – which includes direct expenditures by governments, foregone tax revenues and other concessions – Britain’s fossil fuel support amounted to around £10 billion (S$17.3 billion) a year.

    Coal has provided two-fifths of the world’s electricity for the past 30 years, barely changing over the last decade as the falling share in most developed countries is being countered by growing electricity demand in coal-reliant Asian countries, the report said.

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    Denmark withholds Tanzania aid money over human rights, homophobia concerns

    COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Tanzania’s second-biggest donor Denmark will withhold a large part of the aid money it pays to the country amid concerns over human rights and “unacceptable homophobic comments” made by a government official, the Danish development minister told parliament on Wednesday.

    “I am very worried about the negative development in Tanzania. Latest the completely unacceptable homophobic statements from a commissioner,” Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tornaes said on Twitter.

    Reuters was not able to reach Tanzanian government officials for immediate comment.

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