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The BBC's Lee Carter
"Many Inuit believe that their way of life ... could be irrevocably altered."
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Thursday, 31 August, 2000, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Ice warming 'threat' to Arctic peoples
A Polar bear in Canada's Arctic
The Inuit say Polar bears are already suffering
Climate change unseen since the Ice Age is threatening the livelihood of native people in the Arctic, the Inuit people of Canada have warned.

The Inuit have noticed that ice near Hudson Bay, on Canada's northern coast, is thinner than usual and is forming later in the season.

It has already affected polar bears, which cross the ice to hunt seals and travel to their winter retreat.

two caribou
Caribou and other Arctic animals are threatened
The warning follows a report by the environment campaign group WWF that global warming could cause fundamental changes to about a third of the world's plant and animal habitats.

The report says the Earth's temperature is rising so rapidly that many animal and plant species will very likely be wiped out.

Violet Ford, policy advisor for the Canadian Inuit, or Eskimos, warned that destruction of Arctic wildlife would also destroy the livelihoods of the nearly 120,000 Inuit in the northern areas of Alaska, Greenland, Russia and Canada.

"If carbon dioxide concentrations double in the atmosphere in the next 100 years as predicted, the effects on the Arctic environment, animals and people are going to be catastrophic," she told a news conference in Toronto.

Land rights

The Inuit say that the warming of the tundra, the vast permanently frozen treeless zone lying between the ice cap and the timber line, has altered migration routes of caribou, the North American reindeer on which the Inuit rely.

The Inuit have won land rights from Canada
They also say they have spotted grizzly bears, wolverines and other insects and birds that are more commonly found to the south.

If the Inuit were forced to integrate into conventional society, it would come at a time when they have been winning land claims from the Canadian Government, Ms Ford said, allowing them to sustain their culture.

Since 1 April 1999 the Inuit have run their own vast territory, Nunavet, which was created by splitting up the Northwest Territories.

Winning the two million square kilometres (770,000 square miles) of barren rock, snow and ice, was a victory for Inuit leaders who had campaigned for their own land for more than 20 years.

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See also:

14 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Arctic warming gathers pace
17 Feb 99 | Americas
Inuits elect first government
17 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Carbon at 20 million year high
07 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
The dangers of climate change
22 Jul 00 | Americas
US warning on pollution
01 Apr 99 | Americas
New territory born in Canada
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