For Alaska Native Communities, the Devastating Effects of Climate Change Are Already Here

Abandoned house in Shishmaref

An abandoned house at the west end of Shishmaref, Alaska, sits on the beach after sliding off during a fall 2005 storm, December 2006. Source: AP/Diana Haecker

Washington, D.C. —(ENEWSPF)–August 25, 2015.  Alaska Native communities are already feeling the effects of climate change in a way that puts their very existence at risk. According to a column released today by the Center for American Progress, sea level rise, flooding, and coastal erosion from more frequent and severe storms have imperiled the way of life for many Alaska Natives, some of whom have begun the painful and expensive process of relocating their villages.

The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that moving the village of Newtok and its roughly 350 people could cost upward of $130 million. The land beneath Newtok has been eroding at the alarming rate of 72 feet per year—a problem that is worsening with climate change. Hotter temperatures and melting sea ice also threaten Alaska Natives’ ability to hunt and fish—putting at risk their subsistence communities, their key sources of nutrition, and their small toehold in the economy.

“Alaska is warming at a rate double that of the rest of the country, putting coastal Alaska Native villages on the front lines of climate change and forcing some Alaska Native communities to move,” said Cathleen Kelly, CAP Senior Fellow and author of the column. “What’s worse, what is happening in Alaska is part of a much larger trend in the United States and globally of people displaced by more extreme weather or other climate change effects. When the president visits Alaska later this month for an important conference on the state of the Arctic, he should commit to expanding federal support to Alaska Natives to bolster their ongoing efforts to escape the slow onset of climate catastrophe.”

The column makes several common-sense recommendations for President Barack Obama to help American Indian and Alaska Native communities continue to adapt and build resilience to climate change, including:

Expanding federal resilience and relocation support

Designating the Denali Commission as the lead federal agency for strengthening Alaska Native community resilience

Increasing tribal community access to clean energy

Click here to read the column.

Source: www.americanprogress.org