in the Arctic
Port Heiden, Alaska, US“How many people can say that where they grew up on no longer exists?" Gerda Kosbruk is a lifelong member of her community that relocated from the old village of Meshik to Port Heiden in Alaska. The people of Port Heiden had to relocate their entire community due to coastal erosion.
Gerda is an important leader in her community where she serves as the village administrator. Her family has always been active in the community and they still are today. Gerda is passionate about her community’s struggle and the need for them to figure things out for themselves. Still, she expresses a hope that the world won’t forget about them.
“There’s not that many of us left. Even as Alutiiq people, as Sugpiaq people, there’s not that many of us left. And we’re worth saving. We’re worth being here.”
©Chris Linder / WWF-US
Chaktai, Chittagong, BangladeshStudents of a local school wade through chest-deep water on a flooded street, during a tidal surge. This photograph is by Jashim Salam, a local photographer, who has taken it upon himself to document the devastating realities of living with floods. “I remember the tidal surges started happening in Chittagong from 2009, when sudden floods would happen in my neighbourhood. Before this, there was no flooding in the city.
When the extreme tidal surge first happened in 2009, I saw many houses getting flooded, but there was no rain – it was a sunny day. I started taking pictures of this. After a few days the flood happened again and this time my house got flooded for the first time. I came home and found many of my belongings underwater – even my camera.
The effects of climate change have brought a sudden vulnerability to the lives and livelihoods of people living in Chittagong and the coastal areas of Bangladesh.”
©Jashim Salam / WWF-UK
Utqiagvik, Alaska, USEben W. Hopson looks out over the Chuckchi Sea from a pile of sand bags meant to stop shoreline erosion in Utqiagvik, Alaska. Even though it is July, there should still be sea ice floating on the water, but there is nothing except the calm surface of the ocean.
“[Climate change] means loss of culture, loss of the land and loss of the people that have called the Arctic home for the past thousands of years.”
Utqiagvik has a population of over 4000 people and the Alaskan community is already dealing with the realities of a rapidly warming Arctic: disappearing sea ice, coastal erosion, sea level rise and permafrost thaw. This sand bag wall was built to stop the shoreline from eroding as more frequent storms bring on bigger waves. Sea ice used to act as a buffer and absorb the impact of damaging waves but declining sea ice means that protection no longer exists. The community is also threatened by thawing permafrost. Composed of soil, gravel, and sand bound together by ice, permafrost is found throughout the Arctic. Utqiagvik is built on permafrost. As the climate crisis escalates, the ground beneath Utqiagvik is turning to mush.
©Chris Linder / WWF-US
Raviravi, FijiJosateki Manatua, lives in Raviravi, a small village in Fiji. He is very worried about the future of his home where many of the trees that used to stand in the bay have died because of rising sea levels.
Located in the South Pacific, Fiji is made up of over 300 islands. Much of the population lives around the coast where the people rely on the abundance of the sea for food and income.
Josateki has been living in the Raviravi village his whole life and witnessed the encroaching sea first-hand. In his lifetime the ocean has advanced more than 30 m towards his village, flooding the cemetery, killing trees and forcing people to re-locate inland. The house closest to the encroaching shoreline stands on poles. But despite this effort, during high tide, the kitchen is now regularly flooded.
This vulnerable community is very worried about their future. And although, they have taken steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change and protect their community, they continue to worry that it will not be enough to stop the encroaching water from destroying their homes.
©Tom Vierus / WWF-UK
Miami, Florida, US“I think the youth’s role in this is very important because we are the next generation. We are going to be the ones living on this planet, so we need to make sure that it’s set up that our planet is still around by the time we’re adults – that we can preserve it and keep it going for generations to come,” says Samantha Gazda, a student at Coral Gables Senior High School. She is fighting for the future of our planet along with other students as part of the Fridays for Future movement.
Miami Beach and Miami are, like many coastal communities around the world, facing an uncertain future as the climate crisis rages on. This corner of the United States is extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels. It’s the flattest state in the union with growing urban areas along the coastline. These urban areas sit on an extremely porous limestone bedrock. As a result, during high tides, water rises out of the ground and flows backwards out of storm drains overwhelming entire neighborhoods with floods.
Despite the devastating realities of rising sea levels that people all over the world face, the Fridays for Future movement is built on hope “One person isn’t gonna make a difference. But one person knows five people and five people know five more people. And that’s just how it spreads.”
Langeness , Germany“Langeness can be flooded 20-30 times a year, even in summer, but especially in autumn and spring. Then the whole island is under water, only the houses on the hills look out. We are sitting here on the “Kirchwarft”, and when there are hurricanes, then the water gets to the top of this hill or starts to run over the hill.”
Matthias Krämer is the minister of Langeness. Langeness is part of a collection of small islands in Germany called “Halligen” nestled in the middle of the Wadden Sea. Like many small island communities around the world they are threatened by sea level rise. To protect themselves from the floods, the islanders built their houses on little hills called “Warften”. But because of the climate crisis the sea is continuing to rise, and the floods are getting more aggressive threatening everyday life for these communities.
“I won't live up to 2100, but if nothing has changed until then, then the Hallig would be almost constantly flooded. Then of course you can't live here anymore.”
©Claudi Nir / WWF
WE ARE LOSING OUR CRYOSPHERE
The latest report from the world’s top climate scientists makes it clear that the Earth is in meltdown.
The IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere (SROCC) tells us that our glaciers and ice sheets are shrinking, less snow is falling and more permafrost is thawing across the polar regions than ever before.
The SROCC report makes clear that we are at a critical crossroads: we can choose a more sustainable path towards global warming of 1.5 degrees or our current, unsustainable path. Incremental steps will only lead to mass migration due to sea level rise, mass extinction of species and a world much hotter, and less stable than the one we currently live in. The time for bold and immediate action to fight climate change is now.
100s of millions
of people could be displaced now that the Greenlandic and Antarctic ice sheets have become the biggest sources of sea level rise.
Over the last 3 winters, air temperatures in the central Arctic were 6°C above average.
gigatonnes of ice are lost from the Greenland Ice Sheet each year. This is equivalent to the weight of approximately 50,000 Great Pyramids of Giza.
ARCTIC MELT MATTERS
Sea levels are rising as polar glaciers and ice sheets melt away. Communities around the world are living with the consequences and working together on solutions.
Experience their stories.