Climatic Change

, Volume 120, Issue 3, pp 601–614

The impact of climate change on tribal communities in the US: displacement, relocation, and human rights


    • Department of AnthropologyAmerican University
  • Christine Shearer
    • Department of SociologyUniversity of California at Santa Barbara
  • Robin Bronen
    • Alaska Institute for JusticeUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Kristina Peterson
    • Center for Hazards, Assessment and Response TechnologyUniversity of New Orleans
  • Heather Lazrus
    • NCAR Earth System Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research

DOI: 10.1007/s10584-013-0746-z

Cite this article as:
Maldonado, J.K., Shearer, C., Bronen, R. et al. Climatic Change (2013) 120: 601. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-0746-z


Tribal communities in the United States, particularly in coastal areas, are being forced to relocate due to accelerated rates of sea level rise, land erosion, and/or permafrost thaw brought on by climate change. Forced relocation and inadequate governance mechanisms and budgets to address climate change and support adaptation strategies may cause loss of community and culture, health impacts, and economic decline, further exacerbating tribal impoverishment and injustice. Sovereign tribal communities around the US, however, are using creative strategies to counter these losses. Taking a human rights approach, this article looks at communities’ advocacy efforts and strategies in dealing with climate change, displacement, and relocation. Case studies of Coastal Alaska and Louisiana are included to consider how communities are shaping their own relocation efforts in line with their cultural practices and values. The article concludes with recommendations on steps for moving forward toward community-led and government-supported resettlement programs.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013