‘historic’ agreement on polar research between Japan and Greenland

A delegation that included the head of Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR, 国立極地研究所) and the country’s ambassador to Denmark was last week in Nuuk to sign a ‘historic‘ agreement on increased cooperation on climate science research, expected to be followed by others in the future.

Besides participating in international initiatives such as the NEEM ice core drilling project in the island’s far north (77°N), Japanese research institutions have also launched their own. An ambitious five-year project on Arctic climate change was launched as part of the Kan administration’s green-focused growth strategy in 2010. Among its research topics are the influence of Arctic climate change on the weather and marine ecosystem in Japan (an issue highlighted by NIPR director Shiraishi in Greenland) as well as forecasting sea ice distribution along Arctic shipping routes. The just-launched Arctic Challenge for Sustainability Project (ArCS), whose scope also includes socio-economic effects of climate change, sounds particularly relevant to Greenland. One of the institutions involved is Hokkaido University, representatives of which were indeed part of last week visit.

Nick Nielsen in Japan: Fuji vs. Gunnbjørn

Right after finishing a visit to China, Nick Nielsen, Greenland’s education minister, crossed over to Japan. He attended the opening of an exhibition on Greenland at the Minpaku, the National Museum of Ethnology (国立民族学博物館) in Osaka.

Just as he had visited the PRIC, China’s polar research institute, a week earlier, in Tokyo he was at its Japanese counterpart, the NIPR or National Institute of Polar Research (国立極地研究所), where he heard about Japanese research on the Greenlandic ice cap, that has been going on since the 90s.

Nielsen also met with politicians, among them Tadahiko Itō 伊藤忠彦, whose recent visit to Greenland as Vice-Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications (総務大臣政務官), the first from a Japanese official of that rank, had been read by Greenland PM Aleqa Hammond as showing “a decision by the Japanese government to cooperate with Greenland at a wholly new level“.

The topic of mountaineering came up during a dinner with Diet member Tarō Kōno 河野太郎 (Nielsen has climbed both Mt Everest and K2). Gunnbjørn Fjeld, the tallest mountain in Greenland, was apparently claimed to be “one metre taller than Mt Fuji” (the established wisdom seems to be that Mt Fuji is actually some 70m taller).