This editorial appeared in The Anchorage Daily News.
It is most appropriate for Alaska to be hosting this week's Indigenous People's Global Summit on Climate Change here in Anchorage. Alaska's indigenous people know well a cruel irony of global warming: Those who are suffering the most from a warming climate are those who contribute least to the problem – and they generally have the fewest resources to cope with the damage.
Warming trends in the world's Arctic are undeniable. Sea ice is shrinking, giving storms more chance to pound unprotected shorelines and eat away at low-lying communities. Melting permafrost causes homes and other buildings to heave and twist.
Hunting traditional foods becomes more difficult, as tundra melts earlier in the spring and freezes later in the fall. More open water allows sea mammals, a key subsistence food, to roam farther from the reach of local hunters.
The more the Arctic warms, the worse the problem gets. Open ocean water absorbs far more heat than do ice and snow, which reflect most incoming light. Melting permafrost releases methane that had been trapped within, adding more of the potent greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.
The reality of climate change is well-known to those who live at the front lines in the Arctic. This week's conference can help the world learn what changing climate is doing to indigenous people in the temperate and tropical zones, as well. Their first-hand perspective, based on hundreds or even thousands of years in a particular place, is worth heeding.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.