Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Alaskan community revives legal bid for global warming damages

Felicity Carus in the Guardian (UK): A native American community in remote Alaska this week revived legal efforts to hold some of the world's largest energy companies accountable for allegedly destroying their village because of global warming. The so-called "climigration" trial would be the first of its kind, potentially creating a precedent in the US courts for further climate change-related damages cases.

Attorneys acting for the 427 Inupiat people living in Kivalina made representations before an appeals panel in San Francisco on Monday, to claim climate change-related damages from Exxon Mobil, BP America, Chevron, Shell, Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal provider, and America's largest electricity-generating companies including American Electric Power and Duke Energy.

Kivalina's location at the tip of a barrier reef 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle puts the village on the frontline of extreme weather from the Chukchi Sea, which normally freezes over from November to June.

"Kivalina's existence as a community depends on the sea ice that forms around the village in fall, winter, and spring. This protects it from the coastal storms that batter the coast of the Chukchi Sea," Kivalina's lawyers told the panel. "However, due to global warming, this landfast sea ice forms later in the year, attaches to the coast later, breaks up earlier, and is less extensive and thinner, subjecting Kivalina to greater coastal storm waves, storm surges and erosion..."

An aerial view of Kivalina shows how vulnerable it is, shot by the US Army Corps of Engineers

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