Inuits Blame U.S. for Global Warming

Here’s an interesting news item you may have missed. The Inuit, who live in the arctic circle, are blaming the U.S. for destroying their homeland. On Thursday, they will make their case at a hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Representing them is Sheila Watt-Cloutier, recently nominated with Al Gore for a Nobel Peace Prize for their work on climate change.

So why do the Inuit think the U.S. is responsible for the loss of their homeland? Here’s the scoop.

The Inuit have lived in Canada, Russia, Greenland, and Alaska (where they are known as Eskimos) for millennia. Now their unique cultural heritage – indeed their very homeland – is being undermined by… you guessed it, global warming.

Unfortunately for the Inuit, the effects of global warming tend to be most severe in the polar regions:

  • The driving force behind the entire climate system is the movement of heat from the equator to the poles. When the atmosphere heats up, more energy is put into this system and more heat is transported to the poles. 
  • When the surface of the earth heats up in the mid-latitudes and tropics, the ground just gets warmer. But when it happens in the poles, ice melts. Ice reflects sunlight back off the earth and into space. When it melts, the darker land underneath is exposed. Since darker land absorbs more heat than bright ice, this causes even more heat and melting. And as the ice melts, so goes the Inuit’s way of life.

Arctic sea ice has decreased in surface area by 20% since the 1979. In late summer to early autumn, sea ice has thinned by 40% in many places. Whereas global temperatures have increased 1.3°F in the last 100 years, in Alaska they have increased 4°F in the last 50 years. In the interior in winter, Alaskan temperatures have risen as much as 7°F. Unless greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced, the Arctic ice will be gone by the end of the century.

All this, while frightening, sounds remote and impersonal until you hear the story of Simon Nattaq. His snowmobile plunged through unusually thin ice while he was hunting, an all-too-common accident. Stranded for two days, he lost both his feet to frostbite. Nattaq believes that God kept him alive to warn the world about global warming. And that is just what he is doing.

Nattaq is one of 63 Inuit from Canada and Alaska who are represented by Watt-Cloutier. The petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was filed on behalf of the world’s 155,000 Inuit people.

Is the U.S. really responsible for the Inuit’s problem? To be sure, this is a global problem and all citizens of the world bear some responsibility. But some have more responsibility than others. The U.S. has contributed almost 30% of the current burden of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today – more than any other country.

And then there is that other embarrassing statistic – the U.S. and Australia are the only countries in the developed world who have not capped their greenhouse gas emissions. Hopefully that fact will change very soon.

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  1. thenemo1
    Posted March 16, 2007 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    Let’s address just the past 100 years!
    The world change to industrial war as we sort of know it petro powered ships and planes after massive factories using fuel coal etc. began supplying the military industrial complex with steel chemicals and plastics.
    All the byproducts of production have changed our entire biospere (world).
    Profit rules amd people suck that is the way countries are run not all of them but especially the rich ones that are our problem G.W.B.. Greed.
    We the Great whiteman have screwed ever native indian that we have ever met.
    Even our food and cooking has no resemblence to the past.
    We cut down the trees for mailings we don’t even want.
    Trees produce oxyagen from carbon dioxide. Duh!
    The animals die we are next and i have to hear some idiot complain that he may loose his job if we make the auto industry change to improved cars and trucks.
    I’d move but this is a global fight for the world to survive.
    I’m doing with less to do my best but i still have friends that buy gas guzzlers just to show off. Duh!
    The indians didin’t deserve this even though the oil men don’t care.
    Remember the buffolo over 14 million and we destroyed then also. Now it’s our turn.

  2. bakedalaska
    Posted January 27, 2008 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I have lived in Alaska for 56 years, and there is nothing normal about it anymore. Everything is in flux. I am in Juneau, in the Southeastern temperate banana belt…and it is blowing 50 knots and it is about 12 degrees before you account for the 25 below wind chill. Last winter we had record breaking snowfall, and just 20 miles to the south, there was TWICE as much. The permafrost is melting faster exponentially, it won’t be long before the permafrost in which the oil pipeline was laid in will be throwing the pipe into weird angles. Lets hope it stays together. New species are arriving, old feeding patterns are changing and subsistence hunting practices are always in question. The ice melt depletes the krill upon which the whales feed. Ic melt destroyst the walrus habitat and they are dying by the thousands, hauling out on the rocks in Russia now, polar bear and seal habitat is diminishing as well. For about the last 15 years, there is no such thing as a normal weather pattern….so I have a
    blog about “Global Warming and its Effect on Art” or “Baked Alaska” or “The Art of Global Warming”….can’t decide on the name yet….but its at