America's first climate refugees | The Daily Star
12:20 AM, August 07, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:26 AM, August 07, 2013

America's first climate refugees

It is predicted that within a decade the Alaska village of Kivalina will be completely underwater, creating America's first climate change refugees. Photo: Mail online It is predicted that within a decade the Alaska village of Kivalina will be completely underwater, creating America's first climate change refugees. Photo: Mail online

It is a small Alaskan village whose inhabitants have relied on the sea for countless generations.
But within a decade, it is expected that the ocean which the village of Kivalina has so relied on will completely destroy it -- creating America's first climate change refugees.
Temperatures in the Arctic region of Alaska are warming twice as fast as the rest of the US, causing ice to retreat, sea levels to rise and coastal erosion to increase.
The 400 indigenous Inuit inhabitants of Kivalina, who live in single-storey cabins, have always been protected from the ferocious autumn and winter storms by a think layer of ice.
But, as reported by the BBC, during the last two decades there has been a huge retreat of Arctic ice, leaving the village vulnerable to coastal erosion.
The US government has attempted to help, but its solutions have never been long-term.
A defensive wall was built along the beach in 2008. However, it could not prevent an emergency evacuation two years ago following an enormous storm.
Now, engineers predict the 7.5 mile-long barrier island will be uninhabitable by 2025, completely submerged by the surrounding Chukchi Sea.
The US government estimates that it would cost up to £265m to relocate the residents to higher ground.
But, with there being no sign that the money will come from public funds, the indigenous residents of the village are furious.
Speaking to the BBC, Kivalina council leader, Colleen Swanm, said: "If we're still here in 10 years time we either wait for the flood and die, or just walk away and go someplace else.
"The US government imposed this Western lifestyle on us, gave us their burdens and now they expect us to pick everything up and move it ourselves. What kind of government does that?"
The problems in Kivalina are also experienced in the most northerly tip of US territory in the town of Barrow.
The residents of the town have been fraught with problems this year thanks to climate change.

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