This week a small Alaska village has filed a lawsuit against a dozen oil, power, and coal companies alleging that the large amounts of greenhouse gases emitted by the companies contributed to global warming that threatens the community’s existence. The town of Kivalina, the home of a federally recognized tribe, has filed the lawsuit in the federal court of San Francisco. Kivalina is located about 625 miles northwest of Anchorage and is called home by 390 Alaska natives. The village is built on a barrier reef between the Chukchi Sea and Kivalina River. In the past the town has been protected from winter storms by sea ice that formed a barrier sheltering the community from waves and surges that batter coastal community in autumn and winter. In recent years sea ice has been forming later and melting soon exposing the village to the full power of winter storms. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants are responsible for this due to their contribution to global warming.
“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.”
Army Corps of Engineer and the General Accounting Office has documented the damage to the town in official government reports. Cost of relocation of the city is estimated to be in the realm of 400 million dollars.