"Indigenous peoples have contributed the least to the global problem of climate change but will almost certainly bear the greatest brunt of its impact," said Patricia Cochran, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, an organization representing approximately 150,000 Inuit of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka in Russia. The council is hosting the event.
Organizers said the summit will conclude Friday with a declaration and an action plan, and a call to governments around the world to include indigenous people in any new regimes on climate change.
Conference recommendations will be presented to the Conference of Parties at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December.
The problems of climate change are real and pressing for many, organizers say. Take the case of Newtok, a village of about 325 people in western Alaska. The Ninglick River is rapidly consuming the land around the Yupik village, forcing residents to relocate to higher ground.
"The global warming is really strong," said Newtok resident Stanley Tom, one of the conference delegates. "The whole village is sinking right now."
Tom said with the increase in temperature, the permafrost has become extremely delicate and the tundra now is prone to tearing if vehicles run over it in the summer.