Denmark

Denmark IS a small, flat, highly-industrialized country with a population of 5.4 million (2006 est.). A member of the European Union, it is situated in the northern part of the European continent and is nearly surrounded by the sea. Denmark normally experiences relatively cold summers and warm winters, which places Denmark in the temperate climate zone. The country's greenhouse gas emissions amount to 62.5 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents (2005 est.). The primary sources of Danish greenhouse gas emissions are energy (51 percent), transportation (27 percent), agriculture (16 percent), and industry (4 percent).

Since 1870, the average Danish temperature has risen by 1.8 degrees F (1.0 degree C), and annual precipitation by 4.33 in. (110 mm.). Scientists expect that the climate of Denmark will become warmer, wetter, and windier; changes that will have consequences for agriculture, an important sector in Denmark. Crops will change and farmers will achieve higher yields. On the other hand, there would potentially be a need for increased fertilizer application, as higher rainfall would lead to higher nutrient loss. Increasing the application of fertilizers would have negative implications for the ecological quality of lakes and watercourses.

Predictions are that before 2100, the temperature of seawater surrounding Denmark will rise 5.4-9 degrees F (3-5 degrees C) and the sea level around the Danish coastline will rise approximately 19.7 in. (50 cm.). If this proves true, improved coastal protection will be required. Furthermore, biodiversity will be affected. Some Danish species will disappear, and new species will arrive. Ecosystems, for example the protected Wad-den Sea, may be seriously impacted by rising sea levels.

At the end of the 1980s, environmental matters topped the electorate's agenda for the first time. From 2000 until 2006, both the electorate's and politicians' attention had shifted away from environmental matters. However, a new awakening occurred during fall 2006. Suddenly, newspapers reported that the climate change issue had skyrocketed on the electoral agenda.

A public opinion poll showed that 14 percent of the electorate perceived climate change as the most important political problem to solve, and that 12 percent considered the issue as the second most important political problem. Furthermore, 75 percent of the respondents agreed that Denmark should be a front-runner in solving the climate change problem, even if there are substantial costs involved. Another opinion poll, in February 2007, showed that 80 percent of respondents recognized that they had joint responsibility for climate change problems, and 86 percent believed that every Dane had a responsibility to save energy to reduce climate change problems.

Denmark signed the United Nations Kyoto Protocol in 1998, and ratified the agreement in 2002. According to the Kyoto Protocol and the EU Burden Sharing Agreement, Denmark is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 21 percent during the period from 1990 to 2008-2012. Denmark has succeeded in cutting total greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent 1990-2005 (calculated according to the IPCC guidelines), despite the fact that emissions from transportation have increased significantly. The reductions have been reached, for instance, by introducing a CO2 tax in 1992, which, according to an evaluation, has proven that environmental improvements are possible without sacrificing economic welfare.

Furthermore, Denmark has increased the production of renewable energy from offshore windmills, and Denmark has joined the European Union's scheme for climate gas emission trading. Finally, the Danish government emphasized the Kyoto Mechanisms, Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism projects, as cost-effective means to reach the Danish reduction goal. Therefore, resources have been set aside to buy CO2 credits through these mechanisms. Denmark is hosting the UN climate summit (COP 15) in 2009 in Copenhagen.

SEE ALSO: Agriculture; European Union; Kyoto Mechanisms; Public Awareness; Sea Level, Rising.

bibliography. M.S. Andersen, M.K. Enevoldsen, and A.V. Ryelund, Decoupling of CO2 Emissions from Energy Intensive Industries (Nordic Council of Ministers, 2006); Hanne Bach, et al., State of the Environment in Denmark 2005— Illustrated Summary (Ministry of the Environment and the National Environmental Research Institute of Denmark, 2006); Jytte Boll Illerup, et al., Denmark's National Inventory Report 2007 (NERI Technical Report) (National Environmental Research Institute of Denmark, 2007).

Anders Branth Pedersen National Environmental Research Institute University of Aarhus, Denmark

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