Inuit to file petition against US on climate change

The Inuit of Alaska and Canada’s far north, whose traditional way of life depends on hunting seals and polar bear—and therefore on cold—are not so sanguine about global warming. Thanks to TruthOut for passing on this interesting June 16 Reuters story:

Inuit to File Anti-US Climate Petition
Oslo – Inuit hunters threatened by a melting of the Arctic ice plan to file a petition accusing Washington of violating their human rights by fuelling global warming, an Inuit leader said on Wednesday.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), also said Washington was hindering work to follow up a 2004 report by 250 scientists that said the thaw could make the Arctic Ocean ice-free in summer by 2100.

Watt-Cloutier, in Oslo to receive an environmental prize, said the Inuits’ planned petition to the 34-member Organization of American States (OAS) could put pressure on the United States to do more to cut industrial emissions of heat-trapping gases.

“It’s still in the works, the drafting is still going on,” she said of a long-planned petition to the OAS’ human rights arm, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

She said the Inuit aimed to file it before a UN meeting in Montreal in December.

The OAS represents 34 nations in the Americas, from Chile to Canada, promoting cooperation and common interests.

Its Inter-American Commission on Human Rights analyses and investigates petitions which allege human rights violations. It has no power to sanction the United States but it could issue a report agreeing with the Inuit.

The Inuit hope that the commission will agree that climate change is tantamount to a US abuse of their human rights by thinning the ice on which hunters depend and by threatening species ranging from polar bears to seals.

Watt-Cloutier said that Washington, the world’s top polluter, was doing too little to limit emissions of carbon dioxide from factories, cars and power plants that are widely blamed by scientists for driving up temperatures.

Washington says it is investing heavily in energy research and clean hydrogen fuel but has not joined almost all its allies in signing up for the United Nations’ Kyoto protocol, which sets caps on carbon dioxide emissions.

UN studies forecast that global warming could bring more extreme weather with disastrous droughts, floods and storms. It could also melt icecaps and drive up sea levels, swamping coastal areas and low-lying islands.

The Inuit total about 155,000 people in Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Russia. The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the globe because water or bare earth, once uncovered, soak up more heat than ice or snow.

Watt-Cloutier collected the $100,000 Sophie Prize on Wednesday for her work for Inuit rights. The prize is named after Sophie’s World, a teenagers’ guide to philosophy that was a 1990s bestseller written by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder.

She said she would use the prize to help write a book about the Inuit to be entitled The Right to be Cold.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reveals June 17 that the Bush administration’s team on drafting the joint statement “Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development,” to be submitted before the G8 Summit next month in Scotland, has been predictably working to gut the document.

One deleted section, for example, initially cited “increasingly compelling evidence of climate change, including rising ocean and atmospheric temperatures, retreating ice sheets and glaciers, rising sea levels, and changes to ecosystems.” It added: “Inertia in the climate system means that further warming is inevitable. Unless urgent action is taken, there will be a growing risk of adverse effects on economic development, human health and the natural environment, and of irreversible long-term changes to our climate and oceans.”

See our last post on global climate destabilization and official intransigence.

See our last post on the Inuit.

  1. Ninth Circuit sides with oil companies in polar bear suit
    The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Aug. 21 upheld a set of regulations issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Services(FWS) that provide legal protection to oil companies if the companies incidentally harm small numbers of walruses or polar bears. The Ninth Circuit held that oil companies operating off the northwest coast of Alaska will only have a negligible effect on polar bears and walruses, and that the FWS regulations were thus reasonable. The plaintiff in the case, Center for Biological Diversityargued that the regulations failed to ensure that both individual animals and entire populations are analyzed for protection as required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). In upholding the regulations, the Ninth Circuit declared that the FWS acted reasonably in determining that the oil companies’ actions would only marginally harm wildlife in the arctic:

    Section 101(a)(5)(A) of the MMPA requires the [FWS] to determine separately that a specified activity will take only “small numbers” of marine mammals, and that the take will have only a “negligible impact” on the species or stock. We hold that the Service permissibly determined that only “relatively small numbers” of polar bears and Pacific walruses would be taken in relation to the size of their larger populations, because the agency separately determined that the anticipated take would have only a “negligible impact” on the mammals’ annual rates of recruitment or survival. The “small numbers” determination was consistent with the statute and was not arbitrary and capricious.

    It is unclear if the Center for Biological Diversity plans to appeal the ruling.

    The FWS has been involved in several legal disputes in recent years. The US District Court for the District of Columbia in October ruled that the FWS is not obligated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a contributor to global warming, in order to protect polar bears. In June 2011 a federal judge upheld a decision by the FWS in 2008 to classify polar bears as “threatened” on the endangered species list. Although polar bears are an unendangered population now, it is predicted that melting ice caps will kill 10,000 of the species.

    From Jurist, Aug. 22. Used with permission.