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America's First Climate Refugees: Is Exile Inevitable?

May 15, 2013

Global Warming Effects in Alaska

Global Warming Effects in Alaska

Getty Images

An arch made from Bowhead whale bones lies June 4, 2006 in Browerville, Alaska. Scientists continue to study changes in the Earth's climate which many attribute to the emission of greenhouse gases. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Global Warming Effects in Alaska
  • Global Warming Effects in Alaska
  • Global Warming Effects in Alaska
  • Global Warming Effects in Alaska
  • Global Warming Effects in Alaska
  • Global Warming Effects in Alaska
  • Global Warming Effects in Alaska
  • Global Warming Effects in Alaska
  • Global Warming Effects in Alaska

"I dream about the water coming in."

These words by Sabrina Warner, a woman who lives in a village called Newtok along Alaska's west coast, reflect the fears of every one of the 350 people who make their home here, about 400 miles south of the Bering Strait.

The impact of climate change is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in tiny communities like this one near the Arctic Circle, which the Guardian newspaper of London visited for a report titled "America's Climate Refugees," the first in a series of stories on how villages, towns and cities around the world are coping with the effects of a rapidly warming planet. 

Warner's fears – in her dreams, rising water from the sea forces her to climb onto the roof of her house – actually are likely to come to pass here, even in the next five years, the newspaper reports. The Ninglick River, which wraps itself around the village on three sides, has steadily been eroding away the land for years, tearing off 100-ft. chunks in some years.

Even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agrees. In a report issued in 2009, the Corps concluded that there was no way to save the village if current climate trends continue.

"The snow comes in a different timing now," Warner's partner Nathan Tom said in an interview with the Guardian. "The snow disappears way late. That is making the geese come at the wrong time. Now they are starting to lay their eggs when there is still snow and ice and we can't go pick them."

Tom added: "It's changing a lot. It's real, it's global warming, it's real."

Read the full story at the Guardian's website.


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