July 12, 2008
The People V. Global Warming
When a town is in danger of disappearing, what course of action can it take? The town of Kivalina, Alaska, has decided to get reparations, by suing two dozen oil, power, and coal companies that it claims have brought about climatic changes that are threatening its existence. Located about 625 miles northwest of Anchorage on a long, narrow barrier island sandwiched between the Chukchi Sea and the Kivalina River, the town of about 390 people has been watching its land slip into the sea due to a lack of sea ice brought about by higher temperatures. Normally, the sea ice protects the town from storm surges. "We normally have ice starting in October, but now we have open water even into December so our island is not protected from the storms," explains City Administrator Janet Mitchell. Erosion from the storms has forced the city to make plans to relocate to a site about 7.5 miles away. The city and the Alaska Native village of Kivalina, a federally recognized tribe, recently filed suit to pay for the relocation, which officials estimate at more than $400 million. Lawyer Matt Pawa said this is the first lawsuit seeking damages from the effects of global warming that has a "discretely identifiable victim." The sued companies had not commented by press time. (SOURCE: International Herald Tribune)
Copyright American Meteorological Society May 2008
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