Sustainability

Climate Change Threatens Lives in World's Northernmost Town of Longyearbyen

Climate change in the world’s northernmost town of Longyearbyen has ended lives and destroyed homes.
 
Average annual temperatures in Longyearbyen have risen more than seven degrees Fahrenheit since 1971, which is five times faster than the global average. Winter temperatures have increased more than 12 degrees Fahrenheit according to a February 2019 report commissioned by the Norwegian environment Agency.
 
Longyearbyen is the main settlement on Svalbard, an archipelago in Norway that’s approximately the size of Florida.
 
According to locals who spoke with the Guardian, discussing climate change was looked down upon until 10 years ago. Now people are talking about it because its effects are hard to ignore. In 2015, unusually heavy winter rain and unstable snow caused an avalanche that killed a 42-year-old man and a two-year-old girl. Eight others were injured, and 11 homes were pushed from their foundations.
 
In 2016, resident Christine Hübner and her family of three had to leave their cabin after erosion wiped away nearly 43 feet of coastline, leaving their home dangerously close to the fjord.
 
The thawing of permafrost is also threatening to upend a cemetery in Longyearbyen, which was nearly destroyed in an 2016 landslide.
 
The February 2019 report projects that temperatures in Svalbard will increase between 12.6 and 18 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.