finding 12.3 : declining-alaskan-ice-affects-natives

Declining sea ice in Alaska is causing significant impacts to Native communities, including increasingly risky travel and hunting conditions, damage and loss to settlements, food insecurity, and socioeconomic and health impacts from loss of cultures, traditional knowledge, and homelands.



This finding is from chapter 12 of Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment.

Process for developing key messages: A central component of the assessment process was participation by members of the Chapter Author Team in a number of climate change meetings attended by indigenous peoples and other interested parties, focusing on issues relevant to tribal and indigenous peoples. These meetings included: Oklahoma Inter-Tribal Meeting on Climate Variability and Change held on December 12, 2011, at the National Weather Center, Norman, OK, attended by 73 people.7fbb768c-d8cf-48a5-88b4-dddb6d254013 Indigenous Knowledge and Education (IKE) Hui Climate Change and Indigenous Cultures forum held in January 2012 in Hawai‘i and attended by 36 people.a55e1352-b4c6-42f8-bafa-a920c9e1107b Alaska Forum on the Environment held from February 6-10, 2012, at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, and attended by about 1400 people with approximately 30 to 60 people per session.0808ea70-a152-4f50-abda-90370beb3632 Stories of Change: Coastal Louisiana Tribal Communities’ Experiences of a Transforming Environment, a workshop held from January 22-27, 2012, in Pointe-au-Chein, Louisiana, and attended by 47 people.bbc3c75e-6c21-4e60-8285-514cde885865 American Indian Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group 2012 Spring Meeting held from April 23–24, 2012, at the Desert Diamond Hotel-Casino in Tucson, Arizona, and attended by 80 people.2d423414-dc26-4edc-85e0-6f99bdc6283c

Description of evidence base: The key message and supporting chapter text summarizes extensive evidence documented in more than 200 technical input reports on a wide range of topics that were received and reviewed as part of the Federal Register Notice solicitation for public input. Evidence that summer sea ice is rapidly declining is based on satellite data and other observational data and is incontrovertible. The seasonal pattern of observed loss of Arctic sea ice is generally consistent with simulations by global climate models, in which the extent of sea ice decreases more rapidly in summer than in winter (Ch. 2: Our Changing Climate). Projections by these models indicate that the Arctic Ocean is projected to become virtually ice-free in summer before mid-century, and models that best match historical trends project a nearly sea ice-free Arctic in summer by the 2030s.6e730a84-66a2-4e74-96cb-c9e6824cf185 Extrapolation of the present observed trends suggests an even earlier ice-free Arctic in summer. (Ch. 2: Our Changing Climate and Ch. 22: Alaska). Sea ice loss is altering marine ecosystems; allowing for greater ship access and new development; increasing Native community vulnerabilities due to changes in sea ice thickness and extent; destroying housing, village sanitation and other infrastructure (including entire villages); and increasing food insecurity due to lack of access to subsistence food and loss of cultural traditions. Evidence for all these impacts of sea ice loss is well-documented in field studies, indigenous knowledge, and scientific literature.0a6d16f1-2362-46a1-8bfa-622dc2a43268 6848eec2-534b-4629-967c-53d8530089a3 42269c56-1785-48ec-a81b-6eeb784de417 42051cb9-81ae-463d-8525-2d30cc6a5133 a63cc83e-0b3a-4b65-9c44-76e80f23dab3 55866e23-04c0-406a-aee0-6df58cde18be d66d8544-a1a9-47f4-a163-efb2cf3821a5

New information and remaining uncertainties: A key uncertainty is how indigenous peoples will be able to maintain historical subsistence ways of life, which include hunting, fishing, harvesting, and sharing, and sustain the traditional relationship with the environment given the impacts from sea ice decline and changes. Increased sea ice changes and declines are already causing increasingly hazardous hunting and traveling conditions along ice edges; damage to homes and infrastructure from erosion; changes in habitat for subsistence foods and species, with overall impacts on food insecurity and for species necessary for medicines, ceremonies, and other traditions.0a6d16f1-2362-46a1-8bfa-622dc2a43268 The effects of sea ice loss are exacerbated by other climate change driven impacts such as changes in snow and ice, weather, in-migration of people, poverty, lack of resources to respond to changes, and contamination of subsistence foods.0a6d16f1-2362-46a1-8bfa-622dc2a43268 6848eec2-534b-4629-967c-53d8530089a3 Additional observations and monitoring are needed to more adequately document ice and weather changes.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence: Based on the evidence and remaining uncertainties, there is very high confidence that loss of sea ice is affecting the traditional life ways of Native communities in a number of important ways, such as more hazardous travel and hunting conditions along the ice edge; erosion damage to homes, infrastructure, and sanitation facilities (including loss of entire villages); changes in ecosystem habitats and, therefore, impacts on food security; and socioeconomic and health impacts from cultural and homeland losses. Chapter 12: Indigenous Peoples, Lands, and Resources Key Message Process: See key message #1.

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