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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 November, 2004, 07:47 GMT
US urged to help slow Arctic thaw
Polar bears (University College London)
Polar bears face extinction due to climate change, scientists say
Indigenous people from the Arctic have urged the US to cut greenhouse gas emissions to slow down the current thaw of the polar ice.

At a conference in Iceland, they warned their traditional way of life was endangered by global warming.

They accused Washington of thwarting efforts to reduce the problem by refusing to sign the Kyoto agreement.

Scientists have warned that the region is warming twice as quickly as the rest of the planet.

"The short-term economic policy of one country should not be able to trump the entire survival of one people," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) at the end of the four-day event.

"Climate change is not just about weather or sea-ice conditions... it's a fight to preserve a way of life," she added.

A team of international researchers published the results of a study before the meeting kicked off, predicting that the summer ice cap could melt completely before the end of this century.

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report (ACIA) found that the faster warming rate of the Arctic is due to a build-up of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide released from burning oil, coal and gas in power plants and cars.

It also warned that several species including polar bears could disappear as a consequence of the melting ice.

Climate change could also claim human lives, too, it said. There have been several incidents in which Inuit hunters have drowned after falling through unexpectedly thinner ice.

The foreign ministers of the eight Arctic nations - the US, Russia, Canada, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland - are due to meet in Iceland's capital Reykjavik on 24 November to discuss how to fight the problem.

The US, responsible for about a quarter of the world's gas emissions, has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The agreement, negotiated in 1997, requires industrial nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases below 1990 levels.

President Bush argues the plan is too costly and unfairly excludes developing nations.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Less ice could accelerate global warming



SEE ALSO:
Polar people 'will need to adapt'
09 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
Arctic heads into warmer future
02 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
North Pole 'was once subtropical'
07 Sep 04 |  Science/Nature
Big melt warning for Arctic
29 Oct 03 |  Science/Nature
Polar bear 'extinct within 100 years'
09 Jan 03 |  Science/Nature
Record ice loss in Arctic
09 Dec 02 |  Science/Nature


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