Professor Robert Verchick was interviewed by NPR’s All Things Considered for a story on the tiny village of Newtok near Alaska's west coast. The village is slowly sliding into the Ninglick River as the frozen permafrost underneath is thawing.
Now, in an unprecedented test case, Newtok wants the federal government to declare these mounting impacts of climate change an official disaster. Villagers say it's their last shot at unlocking the tens of millions of dollars needed to relocate the entire community.
"My first reaction is, it's exciting," says Rob Verchick, who teaches disaster law and climate adaptation at Loyola University in New Orleans.
He says Newtok's request is likely a long shot. But he thinks it needs to be done. "And I think that it is going to lead to a very important conversation that we need to be having," he says.
Verchick says FEMA has pushed communities to plan for climate change, but the federal government doesn't have policies to deal with issues like relocation. As more places face the problem, Verchick says they — like Newtok — may need to get creative in seeking a legal solution.
NPR, All Things Considered: Alaskan Village, Citing Climate Change, Seeks Disaster Relief In Order To Relocate
This story originally appeared in an Alaska Public Media piece titled Newtok asks: Can the U.S. deal with slow-motion climate disasters?