Monday, December 5, 2011

Inuit hunter takes climate-change message to Durban conference

It took 30 hours of flying, but Inuit hunter Jordan Konek has arrived in the land of surfers and palm trees with a message for the world’s politicians: Climate change is real, and it could devastate Canada’s Arctic people.

At his home in Arviat on the western shores of Hudson Bay, the snow is arriving later and melting sooner. Hunters are falling through the ice or becoming trapped in slush. Polar bears are so desperate for food that they are raiding the town’s garbage dumps. “The Inuit see this and the world should know this,” Mr. Konek says. “It’s happening right before our eyes. If we’re going to be ignored, it’s like putting a shotgun in our mouth and pulling the trigger.”

Mr. Konek, 23, and his cousin, 21-year-old Curtis Konek, are hoping their message will get through to the negotiators from 190 countries who are struggling to reach agreement on how to combat global warming. But the Durban climate conference has failed to make much progress in its first week, and analysts are warning of a potential breakdown in its final week.

Unlike previous climate summits, few prominent leaders will attend the final days of negotiations, knowing there will be little glory to share. Only 12 heads of state, mostly from Africa and small Pacific islands, are scheduled to arrive in Durban this week. Most of the politicians here will be lower-ranking ministers, including Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent, who was due to arrive late Sunday night. More