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Who can argue against the Inuits on climate change?

How can anyone argue against the heartfelt case of Inuit leader Aqqaluk Lynge, pleading for an end to the expansion of Stansted Airport to help save villages and hunting grounds across the Arctic?

A public inquiry was launched today to boost passenger numbers by another 10 million a year to 35 million. The plan had been rejected by the local authority on grounds of climate change, believed to be the first time reason this was cited.

This case is really going to test the commitment of our government to promote climate change and work on solutions. The countryside surroundings stunning Stansted and there is no doubt that this expansion will  have a detrimental impact on the local community and environment. I know because it is my local airport.

And these protesters in a letter published in today’s Times note that it is ironic that the inquiry has started just days after the end of National Noise Week! 

But back to the Inuits. Just imagine if our villages and habitat was at further risk of destruction because of climate change, that homes were going to be lost, what would we do? 

This is what Aqqaluk (pic) says, who is head of Greenland’s indigenous population:

“When I was a boy in north Greenland, the sea ice formed in November. Now we don’t see it for months after that. All our certainties are being changed by global warming, from the location of hunting grounds to the loss of our homes to the rising sea.

“This is caused by pollution from the South. There is now a connection between our backyard and your backyard and we would like to you to question some points of your lifestyle such as flying and creating more emissions.

“That is why Stansted is important. Getting on a plane in England for a cheap holiday is felt here on the ice today and for you tomorrow. We are not even 160,000 people but global warming is not just threatened polar bears and melting ice. It is about our right to a viable existence.”

It was a stroke of genius to invite the Inuit leader to the inquiry, which he will attend in person at the end of July. In written evidence to the Stansted inquiry Aqqaluk, who was asked to appear by the Stop Stansted Expansion group, details how one Inuit village in Alaska has already lost 10 homes to the encroaching sea, which has moved 300ft inland since 2000. Engineers predict all 600 houses face being swallowed by 2050.

What would we do if we were in their shoes? Who is listening to Aqqaluk from his home in the Arctic? Who can fail to listen to him now?


28 Comments

  1. Especially for Bishop Hill:

    Aqqaluk Lynge told the public inquiry in his proof of evidence (see copy at http://www.stopstanstedexpansion.com/documents/SSE22a_Proof_Climate_Change_Impacts.pdf) that:

    3.18 Several Inuit villages have already been so damaged by global warming that relocation, at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, is now their only option. Melting sea ice and thawing permafrost have caused:
    • damage to houses, roads, airports and pipelines;
    • eroded landscape, slope instability, and landslides;
    • contaminated drinking water;
    • coastal losses to erosion of up to 100 feet per year;
    • melting natural ice cellars for food storage.
    3.19 For example, in Shishmaref, Alaska, a small Inuit village on the Chukchi Sea, seven houses have had to be relocated, three have fallen into the sea, and engineers predict that the entire village of 600 houses could be swallowed by the sea within the next few decades. Shishmaref’s airport runway has almost been met by rising seawater, and its fuel tank farm, which seven years ago was 300 feet from the edge of a seaside bluff, is now only 35 feet from the bluff. The town dump, which has seawater within 8 feet of it, could pollute the nearby marine environment for years if inundated. Advancing seawater has contaminated Shishmaref’s drinking water supply.
    3.20 We have documented similar changes to the environment in northern Canada. Residents of Sachs Harbour, a tiny community in the Canadian Beaufort Sea region, report:
    • melting permafrost causing beach slumping and increased erosion;
    • increased snowfall;
    • longer sea-ice free seasons;
    • new species of birds and fish-barn owls, robins, pin-tailed ducks, and salmon-invading the region;
    • invasion of mosquitoes and black flies.

    Carol Barbone, Stop Stansted Expansion

  2. Courtney, I’m not saying that halting development at Stansted is the solution to climate change – it’s far too global an issue for that. What’s really unusual about this case is that climate change was cited as a reason by the local authority to reject BAA’s plans for an extra 10 million passengers per year, that is pretty unusual, the first time ever I believe. It’s the way the tide is turning. Everyone has their own different view on this.

  3. “As I said before, this inquiry could result in many scientists facing each other head to heard publicly to discuss this issue, especially the Inuits.”

    Thank you for the links, however, I’m still far from being persuaded by all these arguments.

    Firstly, shouldn’t any dispute over planning in Essex be judged by it’s own merits, rather than any hypothetical percentage of global emissions?

    Also, are you really prepared to put the hypthetical problems relating to climate change, before some 5,000 much needed local jobs?

    Air passenger numbers in the future (regardless of climate change) are expected to double within 20 years – are you saying that we should do nothing to prepare for that?

    “Courtney, the people of Esssex are very anti this proposal”

    The people of Essex? Do you mean those 14 people who made over 9000 complaints about noise to the airport operator BAA?

    Ellee, I’ve read your post on the Channel 4 documentary, but I fail to see how that can be relevant to the question of ‘how are we to accommodate the millions of Brits who want to fly?’

    Isn’t it the truth that global warming is now becoming the number one argument/excuse for doing nothing at all? We will need to expand the airport in the future, but no, we can’t do that, think about global warming. We need to build carbon free power stations, nuclear or clean-coal, but oh no, can’t do that either, think about all that global warming.

    So is halting development in Stansted really the ‘solution’ to climate change? No more new airports? No more new power stations? No more new roads? No more new universal provisions?

  4. Bloody Innuits – always hated them. Coming over here taking our jobs, marrying our women… honestly.

  5. Courtney, you might like to read this previous post and its excellent comments on climate change:
    https://elleeseymour.com/2007/03/14/who-swindled-who/

    As I said before, this inquiry could result in many scientists facing each other head to heard publicly to discuss this issue, especially the Inuits.

  6. Courtney, the people of Esssex are very anti this proposal, you will see a link about it, they are very concerned about the impact on their local environment.
    Regarding your question about the impact of this on the north pole, climate change is a global issue and scientists have been monitoring the impact of this in that area, I’ve seen presentations about it in Cambridge University, it is a very real threat. Even Nasa says we are 10 years from the climate change tipping point.
    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=3223473

  7. “Who can argue against the Inuits on climate change?”

    Ok, I’ll take you up on that.

    For a start, what about the issues of jobs, passenger expansion, the local economy, protection of the woodlands?

    What about the people of semi-rural Essex?

    I don’t think I can recall anyone here who even bothered to mention them.

    What exactly is this all about? Isn’t it just a public inquiry? About a local planning dispute?

    I’d like to know how can living in a bleak frozen wasteland near the north pole have any bearing or relevance on a public inquiry about a planning dispute in Essex?

    There appears to be an Inuit running around in Essex, hijacking local political and economic affairs.

  8. Sorry should have type Ellee !

  9. Elle – the answer is Erik the Red !

    Let me explain – the Viking settled Greenland ( and gave it its name ). The clue is in the name they gave it “Greenland”.

    Norse settlements lasted there for 500 years, until climate change ( too much sea ice – breaking communication with other Viking settlements ) and conflicts with the Inuit destroyed their settlements.

    See Wikipedia here – I’m sure I’ve read a similar story in “The Rough Guide to Scandinavia” also !

  10. NASA warns that we are 10 years away from climate change tipping point.

  11. Just exactly what temperature would the Inuits like the temperature of the planet to be ? Shall we adjust the thermostat seeing as – according to the politicians – we now appear to be so important as to be in charge of nature ?

    As always I am cynical about a Government which (through the Blair Broadcasting Corporation)gives us nightly bulletins of doom and gloom about climate change for which the only solution is ‘more tax’ – and yet they do this whilst presiding over an economy which is entirely dependant on rapacious growth and profligacy fueled by easy credit, waste and the policy of cramming as many low paid workers as they can on our small island.

    Land-fill my arse !

  12. Newmania the cooling experienced before 1975 is, I think, attributed to Sulphur dioxide emissions which led to the acid rain (remember all those forests dying off?). SO2 apparently is a powerful cooling agent. After 1975 certainly in the west SO2 emissions have being reduced massively.

  13. Ellee Boris Johnson said quite rightly that domestic and localmaction of climate chnage was like farting in a hurricane .Isn`t this all wildly out of proportion. The questionable provenance of “scientific ” proofs were bashed about at great length on a recent Iain dale post that has got 173 comments so far. To me this is misrepresenting the state of the science as it is to the point that people will cease to take any of it seriously.

    The Globe coooled after the second world war until 1975 during unprecedented industrial growth. ? Explain.

  14. Ellee Boris johnson said quite rightly that domestic and localmaction of climate chnage was like farting in a hurricane .Isn`t this all wildly out of proportion. I

  15. QP, BH and JMP, Obviously the Inuits will be cross-examined on their evidence at the inquiry. It means BAA will have to provide scientific proof for their case as climate change is one of the reasons to refuse the airport’s passenger expansion. There should be lots of scientific evidence on both sides coming out from this, it could be the first time scientists publicly clash head-on about climate change in the same room, as opposed to in the media. I imagine they will be very high profile experts on both sides. I will keep you posted.

  16. No doubt that there is global warming but we are not totally to blame. When I was in Alaska recently I noted and wrote in my blog that the glaciers were already shrinking from between 1790s and 1820s, dates when two explorers noted the levels at that time. In fact they have retreated 65 miles in 200 years which is the blink of an eye in nature’s time. Also the native peoples who have lived there for 12,000 years have stories of their villages being overtaken by ice as the glaciers advanced.
    Luckily now we are able to help the Inuit relocate if their villages are overcome as the water level rises and our knowledge is such that we can predict these things.
    Of course we must try to cut down on the havoc we cause but we must also keep things in perspective.
    regards
    jmb

  17. OK, I think I’ve found it. It’s called Newtok.

    Apparently it’s built below sea level and has suffered considerable erosion. This is alleged to be because of climate change preventing sea ice from forming and sheltering it from autumn storms.

    However it appears to be an old problem. The village was apparently relocated in the 1950s.

    So if I understand correctly, it’s always suffered from erosion and flooding but this time it’s global warming’s fault and so we shouldn’t build an airport near London.

    Not convinced.

  18. So Elle, what do you think of David Bellamy’s stance on this:
    “Yes there is Climate Change, but no there is NO evidence of Global Warming”
    “Yes we should try and avoid destroying the rain forests and plant more trees in Cambridge”
    but of course we want more houses, more cars, more cheap flights (to Tuscany & greece) and these require more runways, more lanes on the A14, and ‘eating-up’ the greenbelt around Cambridge et al

    Would I pay £300 for a BA flight if I can get there for £30 on Ryan Air? – Honestly, NO!
    Would I be prepared to plant more trees? – YES!

    Would I be prepared to build more homes? We don’t want (or necessarily need) more skyscrapers around here.
    But I think there is much that can be done to provide affordable housing with decent living space, and ‘more’ not less green spaces. Where there’s A Will, there’s A Way!

  19. Absolutely. Inuits live much closer to nature than many of us, so they are aware of the natural cycles of life. Global climate change is killing us.

  20. I’ll be going to Iceland next month as part of my cruise. It will be interesting to see how climate change has affected there.

  21. Ellee

    Mea culpa. According to Wikipedia, sea levels are rising (although they have been higher in the distant past). I’d still like the details for the village though.

  22. The story of the Inuit puts the silly nonsense spoken by Lord Nazh and Daily Referendum in perspective. The people north of Britain, including us here, can see the changes as clear as day.

    By the way, Ellee, I don’t think there is a commitment of our government to “promote” climate change, much as I hold no candle for Labour.

  23. Bishop Hill, I have seen maps for that region at the Cambridge Antarctic Survey, I’m sure the village would be listed on it. Scientists there have been closely monitoring this for many years. I’m sure the proof is there, they would not risk their reputation by making sweeping statements.

  24. Does anyone know the name of the village which is allegedly sinking because of global warming? I can’t find anything about it on the web.

    And anyway, just how much is the sea level alleged to have risen recently? I hadn’t heard that it had risen at all.

    This is hysteria-mongering IMHO.

  25. No, the cancellation of proposed developments at Stansted will not make an iota of difference to polar ice because Europe’s contribution to CO2 emissions scarcely figures on the scale when compared to the projections for India and China.

    However, there is always the principle of “setting an example” to consider.

  26. Ian Lidster

    There can be no doubt that the world is getting warmer. Where I get perplexed about it all is the Al Gore panic mode syndrome of saying ‘we’ are entirely to blame for this, rather than seeing it as a natural phenomenon. Ice ages wax and wane as they always have, and the situation at the poles, as only the Inuit can see, has changed radically in the past, and continues to do so.
    Then again, I could be entirely wrong in my assessment.
    Ian

  27. There does seem to be evidence for the theory that pollution may concentrate in polar regions. Certainly, there’s evidence that dust form Africa can wind up across the ocean… but will stopping the expansion of one airport really ‘save’ anything for the Inuit? And newmania makes some valid points….

  28. The Ice in the North is increasing actually although the reasons for this are rather confused there was an article about it in the New Scientist last week. I `m not sure what this chaps point is . He will have to cope with change like a human being does .He is a not a rare and endangered species of animal they can drive and they often do I `m rather uncomfortable with the racist implications of a specimen being produced in this way.

    He seems quite capable fo flying himself …or did he swim ?

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