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Opportunistic climate adaptation and public support for sand extraction in Greenland


Climate change leads to the deposition of substantial amounts of sediment along the coasts of Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) amid rapidly growing global demand for these resources. Yet, little is known about what the predominantly Inuit population of Kalaallit Nunaat thinks about adaptation opportunities arising from the melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Here we conduct a nationally representative survey (N = 939) of Kalaallit (Greenlanders’) views on glacially derived sand extraction, finding that large majorities support extracting and exporting sand but oppose foreign involvement. This pattern of support persists at both the national and subnational levels. Public preferences largely align with Kalaallit Nunaat’s current mineral policy mandating environmental and economic impact assessments of new resource opportunities. In addition, those aware of human-caused climate change have significantly higher odds of both supporting sand extraction and prioritizing environmental impact assessment. Our results reveal broad support for domestically involved, environmentally assessed and economically appraised opportunistic adaptation to Greenland’s melting ice sheet and accumulating sand resources.

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Fig. 1: Public views in Kalaallit Nunaat on sand-related extraction, environmental policies and extra-national co-operation from a random-sample Kalaallit Nunaat nationwide survey (N = 939).
Fig. 2: Likelihood of adaptation preferences given awareness of human-caused climate change.
Fig. 3: Regional distribution of sand mining support and opposition and of glacially derived sand deposits.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available at (ref. 78).


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We thank the Carlsberg Foundation for financial support for the study (grant no. CF-19-0206), awarded to M.B. Furthermore, M.B. acknowledges financial support from the Independent Research Fund Denmark (grant no. 8028-00008B) and the Carlsberg Foundation (grant no. CF20-0129). K.M. acknowledges support from the Danish Agency for Higher Education and Science and the Independent Research Fund Denmark (grant no. 9095-00007A).

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M.B. and K.M. framed the scope of the manuscript and together with R.L.N. developed the survey questionnaire. K.M. and J.L.P. structured the data. All authors analysed the data, and K.M. produced the graphics. All authors contributed to the writing, editing and revision of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Mette Bendixen.

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Nature Sustainability thanks Lawrence Hamilton, Leneisja Jungsberg and Meg Parsons for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Table 1.

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Survey questionnaire.

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Bendixen, M., Nielsen, R.L., Plesner, J.L. et al. Opportunistic climate adaptation and public support for sand extraction in Greenland. Nat Sustain 5, 991–999 (2022).

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