finding 12.4 : increased-health-hazards-for-natives

Alaska Native communities are increasingly exposed to health and livelihood hazards from increasing temperatures and thawing permafrost, which are damaging critical infrastructure, adding to other stressors on traditional lifestyles.

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. Given the evidence base and uncertainties, confidence is high that rising temperatures are thawing permafrost and that this thawing is expected to continue (Ch. 2: Our Changing Climate) Permafrost temperatures are increasing over Alaska and much of the Arctic. Regions of discontinuous permafrost (where annual average soil temperatures of already close to 32°F) are highly vulnerable to thaw (Ch. 2: Our Changing Climate).0e2a44dc-cf4a-490b-ab13-8f1b8faa3cb7 There are also many relevant and recent peer-reviewed publications0a6d16f1-2362-46a1-8bfa-622dc2a43268 42269c56-1785-48ec-a81b-6eeb784de417 9510288d-7aff-4db9-a0fd-e8ecf963dce9 414daa6f-cc93-4e89-bf98-1ad404be7e21 describing the impact of permafrost thaw on Alaska Native villages. Over 30 Native villages in Alaska are in need of relocation or are in the process of being moved. Recent work0a6d16f1-2362-46a1-8bfa-622dc2a43268 f42333d8-7065-41ef-9494-f3cb7e925beb dcd0abc9-2ae2-4388-9c84-df049d049b0a documents public health issues such as contamination of clean water for drinking and hygiene and food insecurity through thawing of ice cellars for subsistence food storage.

New information and remaining uncertainties: Improved models and observational data (see Ch. 22: Alaska) confirmed many of the findings from the prior 2009 Alaska assessment chapter, which informed the 2009 National Climate Assessment.e251f590-177e-4ba6-8ed1-6f68b5e54c8a A key uncertainty is how indigenous peoples in Alaska will be able to sustain traditional subsistence life ways when their communities and settlements on the historical lands of their ancestors are collapsing due to permafrost thawing, flooding, and erosion combined with loss of shore-fast ice, sea level rise, and severe storms, especially along the coasts and rivers.0a6d16f1-2362-46a1-8bfa-622dc2a43268 Another uncertainty is how indigenous communities can protect the health and welfare of the villagers from permafrost-thaw-caused public health issues of drinking water contamination, loss of traditional food storage, and potential food contamination.0a6d16f1-2362-46a1-8bfa-622dc2a43268 It is uncertain how Native communities will be able to effectively relocate and maintain their culture, particularly because there are no institutional frameworks, legal authorities, or funding to implement relocation for communities forced to relocate.0a6d16f1-2362-46a1-8bfa-622dc2a43268 42269c56-1785-48ec-a81b-6eeb784de417 a70c5744-3f77-4829-bf40-803b0ea0a14a

Assessment of confidence based on evidence: Based on the evidence and remaining uncertainties, confidence is very high that Alaska Native communities are increasingly exposed to health and livelihood hazards from permafrost thawing and increasing temperatures, which are causing damage to roads, water supply and sanitation systems, homes, schools, ice cellars, and ice roads, and threatening traditional lifestyles.

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