MNN Galleries

How nations are coping with rising seas

Kivalina, Alaska

Photo: ZUMA Press

7 of 11

Suing oil, power companies

The Inupiat Eskimo village of Kivalina sits on an 8-mile barrier reef in Alaska that’s being threatened by rising waters. Sea ice historically protected the village, but the ice is forming later and melting sooner, leaving the village unprotected. Residents understand that they will have to relocate, but relocation costs have been estimated at more than $400 million. So in February 2008, the village decided to take action, and it sued nine oil companies, 14 power companies and a coal company, claiming that the greenhouse gases they generate are to blame for the rising waters endangering their community. The case was dismissed on grounds that no one could demonstrate the "causal effect" of global warming, but in 2010 Kivalina filed an appeal, citing that damage to the village from global warming has been documented in reports by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the General Accounting Office.