That's what the media headlines say, anyway. The actual facts are, of course, rather more complex:
Shishmaref, a small town of nearly 600 people just north of the Bering Strait, has become a poster child for global warming. It’s threatened by erosion and storm surge due to shrinking Arctic sea ice, and on Tuesday, its residents voted to relocate — they just don’t know where they’re going or how they’ll pay for it.
Read the news and you’ll hear the story of a people being forced out of their homes by erosion after 400 years. But that’s not the whole truth.
Take Shishmaref. People have been there for about 400 years, but only on a seasonal basis. Native Alaskans would traverse the the region looking for the best places to find food, and for part of the year, Sarichef Island had what people needed.
Oregon State University anthropologist Elizabeth Marino is one of the few scholars to really dig into Shishmaref’s history and why the settlement is located where it is today. Marino notes how Shishmaref didn’t become a permanent settlement until the 20th century after the “U.S. government pursued a deliberate policy of ending all nomadic lifestyles among Native Americans,” according to a review of her book by Alaska Dispatch News (ADN).
“The people of Shishmaref weren’t forcibly collectivized in the way that Natives were elsewhere in the country in the 19th century, but the government’s opening of a school in Shishmaref, coupled with the onset of compulsory education, had the same effect,” ADN wrote of Marino’s book.
In essence, the island is part of a chain of sandy barrier islands that formed about 1700 years ago.
The Bering Sea is now in the process of reclaiming them; sea levels there have risen about five feet during the past 5000 years, and erosion on the island prompted discussions about relocating among residents back in the 1970s, when Global Cooling was all the rage. Storm surge and erosion have been a continuing issue, in other words, for decades - long before Man-Made Global Warming was pushed into grant applications and headlines.
So it's an artificial problem that was created by the U.S. government, which imposed permanent residency upon formerly nomadic people. Because the federal government drones always know what's best.