The Inuit people of the Arctic say their human rights are being violated by countries who refuse to sign up to international action on global warming.
Polar regions will warm faster than elsewhere, say scientists
They are now exploring legal ways of linking human rights and climate change to put pressure on nations such as the US to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Spokeswoman Sheila Watt-Cloutier said the problems faced by her people should be a warning to the rest of the world.
She said at a UN climate change meeting the issues were "of life and death".
"We go out to hunt on the sea ice to put food on the table. You go to the supermarket".
Around 155,000 Inuit still pursue a traditional way of life in northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland and the Far East of Asia.
But they say their livelihoods, as well as their lives, are increasingly threatened by global warming.
In recent years, some hunters have drowned after falling through thinning ice. Permafrost is thawing, destabilising buildings and triggering mudslides.
Scientists project that polar regions will warm much more dramatically than other parts of the world.
The Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) is now considering an appeal to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights based in Washington.
They hope it might put pressure on the US to take part in the Kyoto agreement to curb emissions linked to climate change.
"The human rights of the Inuit are under threat as a result of human-induced climate change," Ms Watt-Cloutier, ICC chair, told a news conference at the 180-nation UN meeting.