WASHINGTON (AP) - As the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States has come under heavy criticism, including from people who live almost on top of the world.
The Inuit of northern Canada and beyond took their case against the United States to an international human rights commission. They have scant chance of a breakthrough, but hope to score moral and political points against America and its carbon ''spewers.''
''The point here is that our way of life is at stake,'' said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, who has been nominated with former Vice President Al Gore for a Nobel Peace Prize for their work on climate change.
She was preparing to make the Inuit case before the Inter-
American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of the 34-member Organization of American States. The commission is holding a hearing on their complaint.
The Inuit population hails from Canada, Russia and Greenland, as well as Alaska. They have been trying to tell the world for more than a decade about the shifting winds and thinning ice that have dramatically hurt the hunting patterns their people have followed for thousands of years.
Watt-Cloutier spoke in late February in Iqaluit, the capital of Canada's Arctic Nunavut Territory about 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle, before leaving for Washington.
Simon Nattaq, a hunter, blames climate change for the loss of his feet in February 2001. He said his snowmobile and all his gear plunged through unusually thin ice, leaving him stranded for two days. He now walks - and still hunts - with prosthetic feet, and believes God kept him alive to warn the world of global warming.
Most scientists agree the Arctic is the first place on Earth to feel the impact of rising global temperatures. Many say that unless developed nations such as the United States, which is responsible for one-fourth of the world's greenhouse gases, do not dramatically reduce their emissions within the next 15 years, the Arctic ice probably will have melted by the end of the century.