Ninety Percent of Iceland’s Animals Will Disappear Within 50 Years

Around 90% of animal species that call Iceland and the surrounding waters home will disappear in the next 50 years due to climate change, Vísir reports. While some will move further north or south, others will die out.

According to a recent report by leading scientists carried out for the United Nations, the world’s ecosystems are declining at an alarming rate, putting around one million species at risk of extinction. Iceland is no exception to this gloomy outlook, which scientists say can improve if large changes are implemented.

Director of Icelandic environmental research and consulting company RORUM says the report’s estimate is conservative. “There will be tremendous changes over the coming decades and I think that no one can imagine them. Maybe no one wants to imagine them,” says Þorleifur Eiríksson, who is also a zoologist.

Iceland already seeing changes

Þorleifur says climate change will have a huge impact on animals living in Iceland or in the surrounding ocean. Warming seas are already causing some local animal populations to plummet in numbers or move to other regions. “The thick-billed murre is disappearing and will go north. The guillemot will probably do that soon as well. The puffin population has as we know absolutely plummeted because the sandeel has disappeared,” he stated.

Some of the effects of climate change, such as ocean acidification, may become apparent in Iceland before other places. Ocean acidification is expected to cause shellfish populations to decline dramatically around the country, affecting fish stocks that are crucial to the Icelandic economy.

“It’s not just that these species disappear,” Þorleifur explains. “They are a natural part of a very complex food chain. Haddock, for example, feeds mostly on shellfish, there will probably be a huge drop in those stocks and then just a chain reaction.”

City to Introduce ‘Computer-Aided Crosswalks’ For Pedestrian Safety

New technology aimed at making pedestrians more visible to oncoming traffic when crossing the street will be put into operation in five places around Reykjavík this fall. RÚV reports that the pilot project was introduced by the Independence Party and unanimously approved at a City Council meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

The technology in question involves a sensor that detects pedestrians approaching a crosswalk. When this happens, LED lights illuminate the crossing and draw attention to the person walking. Warning lights on the way to the crossing will also illuminate.

Ólafus Kr. Guðmundsson, a substitute city councilman for the Independence Party, told Vísir that these “computer-aided crosswalks” will play an important role in preventing serious accidents in the future, recalling, for instance, an incident that took place on Hringbraut in January when a young person was hit by a car while walking to school.

Each new crossing system will cost ISK 2 million [$16,379: €14,621]. The specific intersections that will be selected for the pilot have yet to be chosen.

‘Pots and Pans Revolution’ Key Case Study in EU Project on Populism

The Women’s Day Off protest in 2016 at Austurvöllur square.

The City of Reykjavík has received a grant of ISK 400 million [$32,642,600; €29,154,411] to participate in a three-year study entitled “Populism and Civic Engagement,” or PaCE. The project is one of many sponsored by Horizon 2020, the largest ever research and innovation-driven programme to be sponsored by the EU.

“Across Europe, there is a rise of political movements that claim to challenge liberal elites and speak for the ‘ordinary person’ – movements that can be loosely categorised as ‘populist,’” reads the project abstract. “Many of these movements have undesirable tendencies. The Populism and Civic Engagement project (PaCE)…aims to combat the negative tendencies of populist movements, to build upon the lessons of positive examples (such as Reykjavik), and hence play a part in constructing a firmer democratic and institutional foundation for the citizens of Europe.”

Indeed, the project will use Iceland’s so-called ‘Pots and Pans Revolution,’ which took place in the wake of the country’s 2008 financial crash, as a case study. This movement had some populist characteristics but—in contrast to similar movements in Hungary, Poland, Turkey, the UK, and the US—was ultimately the basis for increased liberalisation in Iceland and improvements to Icelandic democracy, such as changes to the constitution and increased accountability for politicians.

Seven international partners from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Ireland, and the UK will be collaborating on this research project alongside the City of Reykjavík and the Iceland-based Citizens Foundation. PaCE will conclude in January 2022.