ASTK15663U SUMMER16: Greenland at the crossroads: Climate Change, Asian interests in the Arctic and developments in Greenland

Volume 2015/2016


Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS

Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS


The course will consider what Greenlandic actors can do with their overall ambitions of economic development and, eventually, statehood facing several big challenges stemming from internal and external pressures in the changing geopolitical context of the Arctic: Which ideas and instruments of governance, economic resources, nation building and state formation is available for Greenland in the present circumstances? Ongoing climate changes have catapulted Greenland into the proclaimed role of the messenger of the rapid changes going on in the Arctic as a warning of future challenges globally. At the same time, Greenland is a gate to opportunities that the Arctic offers a growing world population with growing demands for resources that the climate change is reported to make easier accessible. The course will discuss scenarios for development in Greenland within the context of developments in the Arctic and in relations between Greenland and Denmark by focusing on dynamics in three areas of drastic change: Continuing climate change, growing Asian interests in the Arctic together with the resulting governance implications for Greenland.


Climate change means global warming, and in the Arctic this means melting ice. Both the ice sheet in Greenland and the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean are envisaging accelerating melting development - perhaps very soon beyond the tipping point – and this is seen as a threat to living resources and humans in the Arctic. However, the melting ice is also said to make natural resources more accessible, hence enhancing possibilities for extractive industries in a vast territory with undiscovered oil, gas and mineral resources. The melting ice also makes new trans-arctic shipping routes more feasible, hence increasing shipping possibilities along the already navigable Northern Sea Route and through the Northwest Passage. Recent ice data show that the Arctic might become seasonal ice free during the next 10-35 years. The first part of the course will provide a closer look into the research on mechanisms behind climate change and the impact of climate change on Greenlandic society.


Asia and Asian interests in the Arctic concerning research, access to resources, economic activities and alleged political influence in the Arctic are not new but have been much more exposed in recent years, culminating in the acceptance of the applications on the position as observer at the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in May 2013 of China, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. This part of the course will provide a closer look into the salience and character of the Asian interests in the Arctic and a closer understanding of the diverse character as well as common features of the Asian countries concerning political systems, economic structures, regional culture including the importance of “Asian values".

Governance and governance implications in the Arctic of climate change and Asian interests forms the third part of the course. The melting of sea ice in the Arctic opens the possibilities of more extractive industries and more shipping in the Arctic but also prospects of increasing security implications for Greenland. Therefore, from the perspective of a comprehensive concept of security, there is a risk that these developments will create problems for traditional security and not least for societal security and human security at different levels in society. Locally, search and rescue (SAR) operations will pose governance problems that cannot be handled locally or even nationally and, hence, need attention at the regional or global level. Nationally, the security policy implications of the prospects of massive Asian investments will create tensions with Denmark on Greenland’s self-government setup. And regionally, a growing number of stakeholders demand a transformation of the Arctic Council into a strong international organisation capable of making legally binding decisions in a forum encompassing a number of diverse participants spanning from the five coastal states in the Arctic, the eight member states, sic 'permanent participants' consisting of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) and five other indigenous peoples organizations, a large number of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and now non-Arctic state observers in Europe and Asia, as well.


Joan Nymand Larsen & Gail Fondahl (eds.) 2014. Arctic Human Development Report. Regional Processes and Global Linkages. Nordic Council of Ministers (http:/​/​​10.6027/​TN2014-567) (500 pages - selections) and an electronic binder with articles, reports etc.

The summer school course will last two weeks and take the form of a course and consist of lectures, discussions, written assignments and student presentations as well as presentations by invited guests or visits at relevant institutions dealing with different aspects of developments in the Arctic.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner