31 Jan

Alaskans struggle to deal with coastal waters rising

Taste of things to come:

Superstorm Sandy was a dramatic preview of what cities on the Eastern Seaboard might expect as climate change intensifies, but 12 small, indigenous communities on Alaska’s coast provide the most extreme example of how global warming can wreak havoc.

Flooding, building collapses due to erosion and severe water pollution are only some of the many problems that have troubled these villages.

But according to Alaskan human rights attorney Robin Bronen, the situation is worsened by the lack of government framework to help communities so battered by climate change that they must relocate entirely. Because such a move is unprecedented, several communities’ relocation attempts have been stalled for up to 10 years.

Speaking at a Brookings Institution panel on Arctic Indigenous Peoples, Displacement and Climate Change yesterday in Washington, D.C., Bronen presented a paper on the challenges Alaskan indigenous communities face as they try to move to higher, drier ground. Many of these efforts have been stalled because there is little government support, on both the state and federal level, for the difficult and expensive task of relocating an entire town.