Climate Change in Kivalina, Alaska - Strategies for Community Health

Kivalina is a coastal Iñupiat village of 400 people in Northwest Alaska, on a barrier island of the Chukchi Sea. This report details the struggles of the community of Kivalina to adapt to impacts of climate change including rising sea levels, storm surge, and melting permafrost, for which the village is quite vulnerable. The report contains detailed accounts of the Kivalina people and community, as well as the climate, seasons, air, sea, coast, land, rivers, biota, water, and food which all support the village's subsistence lifestyle. The major climate change impacts affecting the community include changes in temperature and precipitation, seasonal food security, permafrost melt, thinning ice and increased snow accumulation, erosion, sea level rise, and decreases in water quality, supply, and sanitation. Adaptive strategies are presented for each of the impact areas discussed. These recommendations consider ways to adapt to the conditions on the island as of 2011, and remain relevant as conditions become more critical. 

The report describes the real possibility of relocation of Kivalina. By the 1990s erosion in Kivalina became critical. After storms battered the village in 2002 and 2004, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined Kivalina was in immediate need of relocation. The report explains, "residents in Kivalina understand that relocation is inevitable. But moving a community is difficult, even when there is funding, and consensus about where to go. Estimates for moving have been placed between 100 and 400 million dollars." 

Prepared by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, this Climate Change Health Assessment was "performed based on requests from tribal health representatives and from local and regional leadership. Information about local climate, environment, and health conditions was gathered with the help of local and regional government, universities, industry, and state and federal agencies."

Publication Date: January 2011

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Michael Brubaker
  • James Berner
  • Jacob Bell
  • John Warren

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  • Assessment

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