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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 02:06 GMT 03:06 UK
Arctic wilderness at risk
Brooks mountain range
Oil and gas exploration are the main threats
By environment correspondent Tim Hirsch

Most of the Arctic wilderness will be at risk by the middle of this century if industrial development carries on at its current rate, United Nations scientists have warned.

Polar bears, reindeer and nomadic people are all threatened by oil and gas exploration, mining and increased shipping.

Alaskan ice sea
The Arctic is one of the world's last remaining wilderness areas
The Arctic is one of the world's last remaining wilderness areas - but today's report from the United Nations Environment Programme says that by 2050 up to 80% of it will be seriously threatened by human development if the current pace of industrialisation continues.

It says American plans to drill for oil in Alaska and the opening up of a major new shipping route to the North of Russia, will add to increasing pressure on fragile eco-systems.

'Today's choices'

Large mammals such as polar bears, reindeer, caribou and wolves face the greatest threat.

And the lifestyle of indigenous people who rely on hunting will be put at risk.

The report says even the building of a road can start a chain reaction in this sensitive environment which affects wildlife over a wide area.

The authors say they hope it will open the eyes of people around the world to the consequences of choices being made today.

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See also:

30 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Arctic 'getting greener'
11 May 01 | Americas
Global warming helps Arctic animals
04 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Arctic's big melt challenged
11 Apr 01 | Americas
Opposition grows to Alaska oil drill
09 May 01 | Americas
Clash over Arctic reserves
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