Mariel Kieval

Arctic security dialogues have increasingly featured nontraditional topics such as climate change and maritime safety. Many people around the world have only recently started seeing the effects of climate change in their own communities, however, this is not the case for many Arctic peoples, whom climate change has been affecting for decades, and on a much larger scale. As polar temperatures reach new highs, human security is becoming a larger issue. Over eighty-five percent of Alaska Native villages are experiencing increased erosion and flooding, as well as melting of the permafrost that makes up their land. The stories of Newtok and Shismaref are better known, but many villages are still grappling with decisions over relocation and dealing with government inaction. This article provides an overview of the choices at-risk Arctic communities have by looking at existing government procedures. The governments of the United States, Norway and Russia will be highlighted, and this article will analyze their existing policies. This article will also look at options that are available for villages opposed to uprooting their communities. Indigenous communities located on or near unstable permafrost have a right to decide if, when and where to move. They deserve dignity and choices, and states’ actions and policies will set a precedent for how future communities facing climate migration will be treated.

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