Meet America's first climate refugees

The Guardian has produced a must-see series on "America's first climate refugees."

The people of Newtok, on the west coast of Alaska and about 400 miles south of the Bering Strait that separates the state from Russia, are living a slow-motion disaster that will end, very possibly within the next five years, with the entire village being washed away.

The Ninglick River coils around Newtok on three sides before emptying into the Bering Sea. It has steadily been eating away at the land, carrying off 100ft or more some years, in a process moving at unusual speed because of climate change. Eventually all of the villagers will have to leave, becoming America's first climate change refugees.

The multi-media feature is beautifully designed, ad-free and one of the better pieces of interactive journalism I've seen on climate change. Read the rest.

The Guardian also reports that the residents of Newtok, Alaska are just some of the hundreds of millions of people that will become refugees due to climate change, according to economist and climate change expert, Lord Stern.

Massive movements of people are likely to occur over the rest of the century because global temperatures are likely to rise to by up to 5C because carbon dioxide levels have risen unabated for 50 years, said Stern, who is head of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change.

"When temperatures rise to that level, we will have disrupted weather patterns and spreading deserts," he said. "Hundreds of millions of people will be forced to leave their homelands because their crops and animals will have died. The trouble will come when they try to migrate into new lands, however. That will bring them into armed conflict with people already living there. Nor will it be an occasional occurrence. It could become a permanent feature of life on Earth."

Photo: Shishmaref, UNITED STATES: A home destroyed by beach erosion lies on its side 27 September 2006 in the the Alaskan village of Shishmaref. The village, home of Inupiat Eskimos, is located some 600 miles (965kms) northwest of Anchorage but just 110 miles (177kms) from the east coast of Russia. Shishmaref, on an island reachable only by air and inhabited for 4,000 years, is facing evacuation because of global warming. Temperatures that have risen 15F (4.4C) over the last 30 years are causing a reduction in sea ice, thawing of permafrost along the coast, making the shoreline vulnerable to erosion. The census of 2000 reported there were 562 people, 142 households, and 110 families residing in the village all facing evacuation and the loss of their traditional life. AFP PHOTO/GABRIEL BOUYS

Tags: Alaska | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects