Sea rise forces village to shift

Down to Earth - - THE FORTNIGHT -

SHISHMAREF, A tiny Alaskan village on the Chukchi Sea, has pos­si­bly be­come the first Amer­i­can set­tle­ment that will re­lo­cate due to cli­mate change. Its 650 res­i­dents voted 89-78 in favour of a long-dis­cussed pro­posal to move the en­tire village to yet-to-be­de­cided new lo­ca­tion. The 1.6 km-wide is­land, on which the village is lo­cated, has lost 914 me­tres of coast­line in the past 35 years. Ris­ing tem­per­a­tures have shrunk the sea ice, which buffered Shishmaref from storm surges. At the same time, the per­mafrost that the village is built on has started melt­ing, with the shore re­ced­ing at an av­er­age rate of up to 3 me­tres a year. Thin­ner ice has led to a surge in fa­tal­i­ties among the seal hunter res­i­dents, who plunge to their deaths through the cracks. The cost of re­lo­cat­ing Shishmaref will be an es­ti­mated US $180 mil­lion.

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