Arctic warming is one focus of conference

28 October 2007

OTTAWA, Canada — Some of the notable effects of global warming are being felt by people who don't contribute much to the problem - those who live in the Arctic.

So says John Stone, who for 10 years has worked with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a key international group that directs assessments of global warming. The IPCC is the winner, along with Al Gore, of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Scientists announced last summer that the Arctic ice pack retreated more this past year than in any year since satellites began tracking the ice sheet.

"This is happening in a part of the world whose contribution to climate change has been small," Dr. Stone said at the 11th annual conference of the International Environment Forum, a Baha'i-inspired group.

People living in the Arctic, he said, "have bonds to the earth (that) are extremely close ... and (their) coping capacity is strained and commuity infrastructure and ecosystems becoming far more vulnerable."

John Crump, Polar Issues coordinator of the United Nations' Environment Programme's GRID-Arendal, said that while the Inuit people have a long history of resilience and adaptation, "the question is how much adaptation is possible and how much adaptation can the world expect."

The problem will not be solved by simply relocating communities at risk, he said.

"It will take concerted, collective, and coordinated action at the international level" to meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol and much more "to work our way out of climate change," said Mr. Crump.

"The cost of inaction is much higher, and the most vulnerable regions will pay the most, first. But in the end we will all pay," he said, suggesting that there is a high moral and cultural cost for displacing an entire people.

The Arctic was only one focus of the conference, held in mid-October in Ottawa. For a longer report about issues discussed at the gathering, go to the Web site of the Canadian Baha'i News Service.

- Reported by the Canadian Baha'i News Service