Table of Contents

Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples

Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples

The Search for Legal Remedies

Edited by Randall S. Abate and Elizabeth Ann Kronk

Indigenous peoples occupy a unique niche within the climate justice movement, as many indigenous communities live subsistence lifestyles that are severely disrupted by the effects of climate change. Additionally, in many parts of the world, domestic law is applied differently to indigenous peoples than it is to their non-indigenous peers, further complicating the quest for legal remedies. The contributors to this book bring a range of expert legal perspectives to this complex discussion, offering both a comprehensive explanation of climate change-related problems faced by indigenous communities and a breakdown of various real world attempts to devise workable legal solutions. Regions covered include North and South America (Brazil, Canada, the US and the Arctic), the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Tuvalu and the Federated States of Micronesia), Australia and New Zealand, Asia (China and Nepal) and Africa (Kenya).

Chapter 13: America’s Arctic: climate change impacts on indigenous peoples and subsistence

Peter Van Tuyn

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, human rights, law and development, politics and public policy, human rights


Climate change has a disproportionate effect on the Arctic. The Arctic in general is warming at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the planet, while America’s Arctic is warming at nearly three times that rate. This warming results in a cascade of effects on the Arctic environment, including the melting of sea ice and permafrost, ocean acidification, rising sea levels and coastal erosion, and increased frequency and intensity of storm events. America’s Arctic is home to indigenous people such as the Inupiat Eskimo of Alaska’s North Slope and the Gwich’in Athabaskan of Alaska’s Interior. Culturally and nutritionally, the Inupiat are closely connected with animals in the Arctic Ocean, including whales, walrus, seals, waterfowl and fish. The Gwich’in consider themselves the ‘caribou people’, and the foundation of their culture and subsistence is the Porcupine Caribou Herd. These people have lived offthe resources of the Arctic for thousands of years, and are as much a part of the Arctic environment as the wildlife and fish of the Arctic that have allowed them to live and thrive there for so long. The ability of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic to pursue their hunting, fishing and gathering activities is directly linked to their food security and thus their future. In a real sense, therefore, the cultures and futures of these Arctic peoples are inextricably intertwined with the Arctic environment.

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