02/20/2015

Legal Battle Ends, But Seas Continue to Rise in Kivalina, Alaska

12:07 minutes

Kivalina, Alaska. Photo by ShoreZone/flickr/CC BY 2.0
Kivalina, Alaska. Photo by ShoreZone/flickr/CC BY 2.0

In 2008, the Inupiat village of Kivalina, Alaska sued 24 fossil fuel companies for the destruction of its homeland, a seven-mile barrier island on Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. The cause of the destruction, the village contended, was climate change. Without thick winter sea ice to buffer Kivalina from storms, surges have ripped through the island’s seawalls and taken out as much as 70 feet of coastline at a time. The village lost its federal court case in 2013, and this week announced it would not re-file in state court. Meanwhile, scientists estimate the island will be underwater by 2025.

Kivalina City Council Member Colleen Swan describes the changes that villagers have witnessed, as well as her community’s prospective plans to relocate. Kivalina: A Climate Change Story author Christine Shearer discusses the legacy of Kivalina’s legal case.

Plus, check out photographer Suzanne Tennant’s photo essay from Kivalina.

Segment Guests

Colleen Swan

Colleen Swan is councilmember and relocation coordinator of the Kivalina City Council in Kivalina, Alaska.

Christine Shearer

Christine Shearer is author of Kivalina: A Climate Change Story (Haymarket, 2011) and program manager at CoalSwarm in San Francisco, California.

Meet the Producer

About Annie Minoff

Annie Minoff is a producer for Science Friday. She’s visited Olympic ski jumps and a nuclear reactor, all in the name of science.