Air conditioning for Eskimos as the Arctic warms up

Climate change melts ice, enables broccoli to be grown in Greenland, and brings wildlife for which the locals have no native names

A A A

Selling ice-cream to Eskimos used to be the definition of a tough sales pitch - but now it has been put in the shade. For as the world heats up, the Inuit are scrambling to install air conditioning, and electricity prices north of Quebec have been slashed specially to enable them to do so.

The new need to chill out in the Arctic is just one of the bewildering changes being forced on one of the world's last remaining hunting peoples. Their snowmobiles have been falling through the melting ice, and the Inuit are finding themselves lost for words as new species for which they have no names in their language appear. And, in places, they have had to dig wells, as they can no longer rely on snows for water.

Temperatures in the Arctic have been rising twice as quickly as in the world as a whole. Sea ice has shrunk by a quarter in area and a half in thickness since 1978, and its decline is now accelerating. Last May and June a heatwave sent temperatures soaring into the low 30s Celsius in the 2,000-strong village of Kuujjuaq, 2,500km north of Montreal, which has just installed 10 air conditioners to cool 25 office workers. "It is getting pretty hot here, even though we are in the far north," said its mayor, Larry Watts. "When I was growing up, I did not notice these kinds of temperatures."

And this followed a winter in which the Inuit of Pangnirtung, Baffin Island - right on the Arctic Circle - basked in February temperatures of 9C, when they should be -30C. "We were just standing around in our shorts, stunned and amazed, trying to make sense of it," said villager Donald Mearns.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, said: "The far north now has to have air conditioners to function." The Inuit's buildings - originally constructed "airtight for the cold" - are now turning into heat traps.

Hydro Quebec, the province's electricity utility, has drastically cut its prices as a result. They used to be set very high at a "dissuasive rate" to stop people from using electricity to heat their homes as it has to be generated from expensive diesel in the far north. But now they have lowered them for air conditioning in schools, hospitals and offices.

Farmers in Greenland are beginning to grow broccoli, cauliflower and Chinese cabbage. Salmon are also appearing in Inuit waters but the people have no name for them - or for such other newcomers as the barn owls, hornets and robins - in their language, though they have more than 1,000 words for reindeer.

In Chukotka, northern Russia, Inuit have drilled wells for water because there is too little snow to melt, and everywhere the people are finding it hard to hunt as their traditional prey disappear. Metuq, a hunter and fisherman from Baffin Island, whose fishing shack fell through unexpectedly melting ice last February, said: "The world is slowly disintegrating."

And Simon Kohlmeister, a hunter from Labrador who lost his snowmobile in the same way, added: "Some day we won't have any snow. We will no longer be Eskimos."

Life and Style
Social media users in Mexico who commented on cartel violence have been killed in the past
techTweets not showing up or loading this morning, users say
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker