In a letter to Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier and representatives of Earthjustice and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) dated February 1, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Organization of American States), has agreed to hold a hearing to investigate the relationship between global warming and human rights. The hearing is scheduled for March 1, 2007.
The invitation is in response to a request by Ms. Watt-Cloutier and the environmental organizations, in which they outlined the serious threat that global warming is already having on human rights in the Arctic and throughout the hemisphere.
"This is very good news," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, former Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. "In the Arctic regions of Canada and the United States, warmer temperatures are melting the ice and snow that have formed the basis of our culture and survival for millennia."
Among other human rights impacts of global warming, the request for the hearing, sent to the Commission on December 5, 2006, outlined the following impacts on the people of the Arctic:
Because of the loss of ice and snow, communities have become isolated from one another; hunting, travel and other subsistence activities have become more dangerous or impossible; drinking water sources have been jeopardized; many coastal communities are already threatened or being forced to relocate, while others face increasing risks or costs; and transmission of Inuit culture to younger generations has become difficult or impossible. These impacts jeopardize the realization of the Inuit's rights to culture, life, health, physical integrity and security, property, and subsistence.
Watt-Cloutier was nominated on February 1, 2007, for a Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy of Inuit causes, including her tireless efforts to put a human face on the impacts of global warming. On February 2, 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest findings on climate change, concluding human pollution is "very likely" the cause of global warming.
"With the latest science released by IPCC, the human causes of global warming can no longer be denied," said Martin Wagner, an attorney from the US-based Earthjustice who has worked with Watt-Cloutier to draw attention to the impact of global warming on the Inuit's human rights. "There can be no question that global warming is a serious threat to human rights in the Arctic and around the world. The Inter-American Commission plays an important role in interpreting and defending human rights in the hemisphere, and we are encouraged that it has decided to consider the question of global warming."