Indigenous people of the Arctic and impacts of Climate Change
With a one degree of warming at the equator there are four to six degrees of warming in the Arctic. For the Inuit people who live in this freezing environment the changes are both economic and cultural. They will be affected by shifting Caribou migrations, changes in fish, whale, seal and bird numbers. As the permafrost (frozen ground) continues to thaw out and melt more and more in summer homes, roads and pipelines will sink and become unsafe. If the permafrost continues to thaw out and melt huge amounts of carbon and methane (a powerful green house gas) will escape into our atmosphere. This will add more green house gases to trap more heat in our atmosphere.
As the sea ice melts and covers less and less of the Arctic Ocean some countries want to get in there and mine the oil and gas reserves that were protected under the ice. At a recent Arctic Summit of Inuit people there was talk of all the money that would come from mining for the people of the Arctic. An Inuit elder responded, “We don’t want the fate of the North American indigenous people. We are in the middle of a changing situation and we have to establish our economies.” He went on to say that the Arctic people knew that if you destroyed nature, it would destroy your way of life.
Around four million people live in the Arctic. Almost 800,000 are indigenous people with the Inuit being the largest group. They range from Greenland to Canada and to twenty-one nations in Far East Russia.
In recent elections in Greenland a pro-mining party has been elected. There are already over 100 mining leases on Inuit land in Greenland. According to the locals the pace of change has taken most of them by surprise. The rapid increases in shipping, fishing, tourism, mining and temperatures will be a challenge for the region and its people.