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Pollution and Climate Change
This sub-section examines the effects of air pollution on forests and of greenhouse gases on climate, the danger of insecticides for birds and human health, and the pollutants in our rivers.
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Climate Change: A Historic Transformation in the Arctic
The Arctic is going through major environmental changes that are profoundly affecting the way of life of the Inuit.
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Chemical Pollutants in our Cities
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Climate Change: A Historic Transformation in the Arctic
Sheila Watt-Cloutier was born in Nunavik in northern Quebec and now lives in Iqaluit, Nunavut. She and was raised traditionally before attending school in southern Canada. She is the past chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, representing the 155,000 Inuit of Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Chukotka. As a spokesperson for a coalition of northern indigenous peoples at the 2001 Stockholm Convention, Ms. Watt-Cloutier was instrumental in the negotiations that led to the ban of persistent organic pollutants that contaminate the arctic food web.
The Arctic is going through major environmental changes that are profoundly affecting the way of life of the Inuit.

In the Arctic, we are in the midst of a historic transformation. In the past year alone we have witnessed entire landscapes and icescapes on the move or disappearing because of climate change. The latest scientific and traditional accounts of climate change are more worrying than ever. Across the North, our communities are struggling to cope with extreme erosion, melting permafrost and slumping beaches. Our sea ice is thinning, our glaciers receding, and we are faced with an “invasion” of new species—grizzly bears, for example, are coming much farther north than previously. Southern species of fish, insects and birds are all finding their way north. Our summers are warmer, our winters shorter. The magnitude of these changes varies from place to place, but the trend is consistent.

Climate change affects every facet of Inuit life. Our hunting culture depends and thrives upon the cold. Already we are having difficulty adapting to environmental changes as a result of global warming. Hunters have fallen through the thinning sea ice in places and at times long considered safe. The traditional knowledge that once guided our elders onto the land and back home safely becomes less reliable every year as weather patterns grow dangerously unpredictable.

Some of the most alarming projections now predict that global greenhouse gas emissions will increase 57% by 2030. While such an increase would be monumentally damaging, very little now surprises me. The media coverage of climate change in the North has been surprisingly comprehensive; it seems that news is now constantly released on how this year’s warming trends are even worse than the last. Every day, it seems, we learn the most alarming projection made a few years ago now appears too conservative. For example, as recently as 2004, the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment foresaw an ice-free Arctic Ocean in the summer of 2050. The following year, those figures were revised down to 2040. And last year, after the tremendous melt stunned scientists around the world, the most alarming estimates show a new, ice-free, seasonal sea at the top of our world by 2012.

The current level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is already transforming the Arctic. Unless we immediately arrest the global increase and begin to decrease emissions, the Northern environment that has sustained Inuit for millennia will cease to exist. Inuit are a uniquely adaptable people. We have weathered the storm of modernization remarkably well, going from dog-teams and igloos to snowmobiles, jumbo jets, permanent homes, and even modern stores, all within a few decades.

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Did you know?
Warmer winters have enabled the mountain pine beetle infestation to grow into an epidemic in British Columbia's interior forests. The beetle has killed half of the province's lodgepole pine trees and is expected to kill over three-quarters of the marketable pine forests by 2015.