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Inuit Human Rights and Climate Change

If we can reverse the emission of greenhouse gases in time to save the Arctic from the most devastating impact of global warming, then we can spare untold suffering for hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Protect the Arctic and we save the planet. Use us in the Arctic as your early warning system. — Sheila Watt-Cloutier
Chair, Inuit Circumpolar Conference (February 12, 2005)

For millennia, the Inuit have lived in the Arctic coastal areas of Alaska, Canada, Russia and Greenland. Like many indigenous peoples, the Inuit are the product of the physical environment in which they live. The culture, economy and identity of the Inuit as an indigenous people depend upon the ice and snow. Climate change now threatens the Inuit's human rights to culture, life, personal security, health, housing, and food.

The Arctic is warming much more rapidly than previously known, at nearly twice the rate as the rest of the globe, according to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), a four-year scientific study conducted by an international team of 300 scientists under the direction of a high-level intergovernmental forum including the United States. Increasing greenhouse gases from human activities are projected to make the Arctic warmer still, according to this unprecedented report.

These changes will have major global impacts, such as contributing to global sea-level rise and intensifying global warming, according to the ACIA final report.

Earthjustice's International Program, along with the Center for International Environmental Law, has worked with the Inuit Circumpolar Conference to submit a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking relief from the impacts of climate change resulting from the United States' failure to take effective action to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. A positive decision on the petition will establish the responsibility of the United States and other major greenhouse gas-emitting nations for the human rights violations resulting from climate change. Such responsibility creates an international obligation to take action to prevent such violations.

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