The city of Kivalina and a federally recognised tribe, the Alaska Native village of Kivalina, yesterday launched action against nine oil companies, 14 power companies and one coal company in a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco.
Kivalina is a traditional Inupiat Eskimo village of about 390 people about 1,005km northwest of Anchorage.
It is built on an eight-mile barrier reef between the Chukchi Sea and Kivalina River.
Sea ice traditionally protected the community, whose economy is based in part on salmon fishing plus subsistence hunting of whale, seal, walrus, and caribou.
But sea ice that forms later and melts sooner because of higher temperatures has left the community unprotected from autumn and winter storm waves and surges that lash coastal communities.
“We are seeing accelerated erosion because of the loss of sea ice,” city administrator Janet Mitchell said.
“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.”
Relocation costs have been estimated at $400 million or more.
Damage to Kivalina from global warming has been documented in official government reports by the Army Corps of Engineers and the General Accounting Office.