Inuit sue US over melting ice-sheets


ARCTIC: The people of the Arctic, once called Eskimos but more correctly Inuit, are suing the US government on the basis that greenhouse gas emissions from the US threaten to destroy their livelihoods and culture.

Paul Crowley, legal counsel to Inuit Circumpolar Conference, said melting ice-sheets in the Arctic regions of Canada, Alaska and Greenland as a result of global warming would mean "the destruction of the their culture in this century".

He told a press conference at the Montreal climate summit yesterday that evidence gathered over the past 20 years would form the basis of the Inuit law suit, which is being lodged with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

"It's not a question of money, but of cultural survival", Mr Crowley said. "There are 155,000 people involved and they are requesting the US to mitigate its greenhouse gas emissions and help them to adapt to the reality of climate change."

In some cases, this would involve relocating entire villages, as traditional hunting grounds were wiped out, he explained. The cost would run into several hundred million dollars, which would be borne by the respective governments.

Mr Crowley said there was a 10- to 15-year "window" in which deep cuts in emissions would need to be made to forestall the worst projections for the Arctic, which scientists say is changing more rapidly than anywhere else on Earth.