COPENHAGEN: Americans May Be Among First Climate Refugees
According to the results of a recently released poll by Harris Interactive, the number of Americans who believe that global climate change is occurring has declined to only 51 percent, and is dropping fast.
This new result is a steep decline from the 71 percent of Americans who indicated they believed in global warming, in 2007.
The survey, titled “Big Drop in Those Who Believe that Global Warming is Coming” (PDF) found that about 29 percent of Americans don’t believe in global warming, while 21 percent are unsure. Sadly, these percentiles mirror the staunch political partisianship on this issue, with 73 percent of Democrats believing in global warming, compared to just 28 percent of Republicans.
While the fact that people who clearly indicated that they believed in global warming at one point have found a reason to change their tune is an issue worth pondering all on its own, the visible effects of climate change continue to grow; oblivious to the debate.
A recent article in Reuters, those individuals living in the U.S. heartland are some of the most staunch climate change deniers, “fueling conservative opposition to a climate change bill that is a priority for President Barack Obama and making some Democrats vulnerable in the November 2010 congressional elections.”
Maybe the skepticism is strongest in the central states because they have yet to experience the drastic effects of miniscule increases in temperature can cause.
Perhaps a visit to Americans living on the edge of the continent would open their eyes.
As the leaders of the world prepare to gather in Copenhagen to address the need for international cooperation in order to slow climate change, one Alaskan village is slowly melting away, leaving its inhabitants homeless and without a way to continue their centuries-old culture.
CNN recently reported that the Inupiat Eskimo village of Shishmaref, Alaska is experiencing coastal erosion at an accelerated rate, due to melting permafrost caused by climate change, and as a result, one home has already toppled into the sea, and over a dozen more have been moved inland.
“Rising global temperatures have started to thaw the permafrost that once helped anchor this village in place.” Typically, “sea ice that protects Shishmaref’s coast from erosion melts earlier in the spring and forms later in the fall. As a result of the temperature increases, “the increasingly mushy and exposed soil along Shishmaref’s shore is falling into the water in snowmobile-sized chunks.”
It’s important to note that this is not an isolated incident. CNN reported that “a dozen Alaskan villages, including Shishmaref, are at some stage of moving because of climate-change-related impacts like coastal erosion and flooding.”
While the rest of the world watches with differing levels of apathy and denial as politicians debate about whether climate change is a reality, the chunks of once stable permafrost continue to melt and fall away in Alaska, and the centuries-old Eskimo culture, their unique language and the viability of their entire village waits to slip into oblivion.
These American citizens will likely be some of the world’s first climate refugees, a threat that tops the list of concerns for Copenhagen attendees, and an issue that no amount of polling can allow us to continue to ignore.
Image Credit: www.aaas.org