At a Senate hearing on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders called Alaska the “canary in the coal mine” on climate change and cited threats to Native American communities from rising seas as a result of global warming.
The village of Newtok, Alaska, near the Arctic Circle, may be underwater by 2017, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sanders noted. More than 180 other native Alaskan villages also are at risk because of climate change, Sanders added.
“Some of you are in favor of more production of fossil fuel which is ultimately destroying the very communities you live in. That does not make a lot of sense to me,” Sanders asked witnesses at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.
Some of the witnesses saw melting icecaps as an opportunity to promote Alaska’s oil resources. But Sanders said, “It would seem to me that if one is concerned about preserving your way of life, that one must be a leader in the fight against climate change. I understand the economic implications of it, but how can we be talking about producing more oil, which causes climate change, which would be devastating to the communities of native Alaskans?”
The United States soon will assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental body that promotes coordination among the eight countries bordering the Arctic Ocean.