How is diminishing Arctic sea ice influencing coastal communities?

Published: 2017
Product type: Science Brief
Categories: Sea Ice

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Loss of sea ice, thawing permafrost, reduced snow cover, and rising sea level are reducing hunting and fishing opportunities and degrading infrastructure for rural Arctic communities. Most Alaska Native communities are affected by erosion and flooding, with 31 communities imminently threatened and 12 planning to relocate. Local responses to these stresses are hampered by the nation’s highest prices for food and fuel and widespread poverty across rural Alaska.

Why it matters

Climate change amplifies challenges confronting Arctic communities, where 60-80% of households depend on wild game and 7ish for food, harvesting several hundred pounds per person annually. Already faced with economic, social, and cultural changes, traditional ways of life in rural Alaska are further threatened by climate change impacts on diminishing food security, deteriorating water and sewage systems, increasing risk of accidents, and greater expenditures to construct and maintain infrastructure. Government agencies and other institutions need to promote policies that reduce stresses on Arctic communities and foster responses consistent with local economies and cultures.