Inuit Life Threatened By Climate Change

Even in July, conditions near the top of the world can be harsh and unforgiving. When most of the snow and ice melt, a desert-like landscape remains.

Of the 229 or so people who live on Cornwallis Island, most are Inuit, native people transported from northern Quebec in the 1940s and 50s as part of a sovereign claim to the northern region. They've remained ever since. CBS News correspondent Daniel Sieberg reports from the town of Resolute in the arctic.

Before they arrived there was really nothing here but wildlife. Now it's a rudimentary existence: a school, a store, a church, a community center. But for these people, it's home.

Summer in the high arctic means 24 hours of daylight. Here in Resolute, one of the world's northernmost communities, it's just after midnight. And as for the winter months, well, residents here have become accustomed to 24 hours of darkness.

"The ice is starting to melt earlier, and quicker," says native resident Ludy Pudluk.

It's adapting to the changing climate in the north that has Inuit elders like Pudluk concerned.

"I'm worried. I'm worried for my future, the future generation," he says.

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Ludy and his family arrived in Resolute in 1953. He says within the last 10 years he's seen climate changes — specifically warming trends — affect everything from the amount of ice offshore to the animals they hunt.

"Our culture will no longer exist. It will be gone," says Ludy.

For Marty Bergmann, a veteran arctic scientist, these unfiltered comments about disappearing ice cut through the murky politics of global warming.

"We're all saying the same thing: There's less of it out there and it's gone earlier than normal," says Bergmann, who is assistant director of the International Polar Year.

Other arctic researchers, such as Eddy Carmack, agree. He's been meeting with the Inuit community for decades, listening to their accounts.

"We're hearing stories of ice being too thin or breaking away too early and stranding hunters on the ice," he says. "I think there's a wealth of knowledge to be gained by listening to the northern residents."

Today the challenge for scientists like Bergmann and Carmack is to gather data for climate change predictions and share the data with some of the people who need it most.
  • Michelle Singer

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