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AAAS releases video and first board consensus statement on climate change

The plight of the 600 residents of Shishmaref, Alaska, provides a powerful illustration of the human impacts of global climate change. In Shishmaref, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, the retreat of sea ice and the rise of sea level are combining to drive them from their village and destroy residents' way of life.

Two Shishmaref teachers, two city leaders, and three high-school students who won an essay-writing contest will be on hand at the AAAS event in San Francisco to catch the premiere of a new short video featuring their experiences. The group will include Shishmaref Science Teacher Ken Stenek; Elementary Teacher Denise Thoreson; Transportation Planner Tony Weyiouanna Sr.; Mayor Stanley Tocktoo; and students Frieda Grierson (grade 9, age 14), Jaime Barr (grade 11, age 16), and Simon Weyiouanna (grade 11, age 16).

In the video, Stenek, Tocktoo, and Weyiouanna Sr. each describe their observations of dramatic physical changes in Shishmaref, a 4,000-year-old Inupiaq village, such as rapid beach erosion and thinning ice.

"The fish are way up river and gone somewhere else," Tocktoo said. "With the permafrost nowadays, we bury our fish and food very shallow because the sun is so hot, the sun might heat up the sand and then spoil all our food. That's what I'm worried about."

Weyiouanna said that hunting and fishing seasons have changed, too, because of warmer weather and shorter winters. Stenek noted that he has seen "probably close to a hundred feet of land that's been eroded away on the north side of the island." Village officials say that since 2001, the island has lost an average of nearly 23 feet of shoreline per year, and some buildings have collapsed into the sea. The village is seeking $180 million in government support for relocation.

Regions around the Arctic "are like the coal miner's canary, the early warning to the rest of us of the extent to which the Earth's climate
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18-Feb-2007


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