Kivalina is an Iñupiaq village of 400 people situated on a barrier island in the Arctic, on the northwest coast of Alaska. In recent years global warming has been postponing the formation of sea ice, exposing the shore to autumnal sea storms and thus placing the existence of Kivalina increasingly under threat. The lack of basic infrastructure, compounded by erosion and flooding, have pushed the village to seek relocation.
In 2006 Kivalina sued the twenty-four largest oil and gas corporations, maintaining that they should be held accountable for the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore contribute to relocation costs. Following the failure of the legal forum to address Kivalina’s claims and the standstill of governmental relocation attempts, the Modelling Kivalina group traveled to Alaska to conduct a series of interviews with village residents, scientists, and political representatives.
- Andrea Bagnato
- Daniel Fernández Pascual
- Helene Kazan
- Hannah Meszaros Martin
- Alon Schwabe
"Kivalina, "the Coming Storm" - Video documentary
Oral argument at the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit San Francisco, November 28, 2011
[1:18] “This case presents the question of whether a federally recognized Native American tribe and Alaskan municipality may proceed past the pleading stage with their damages lawsuit—a lawsuit seeking damages from defendants for their significant emissions of greenhouse gases and for the conspiratorial actions of some of those same defendants whom we allege engaged in agreement to continue their tortious conduct. There is a fundamental principle of public nuisance law that underlies this case, and it is essential to resolving the questions of displacement—a political question—and that principle is that when you sue in public nuisance for a damages case, particularly one seeking damages for severe harm, you don’t need to engage in a balancing of the utility of the defendants’ conduct against the harm to the plaintiff.” Matt Pawa, plaintiff attorney for the native village of Kivalina.
[12:10] “State Courts […] that have been hearing cases of severe harm, like the Wisconsin Court hearing the Jost case or Emerald Mines in the North Carolina case, have found that when you have a plaintiff whose property is being severely harmed by the defendant, the pollution and the conduct is not a license to harm even though under balancing test you might let it continue. But it is unreasonable not to compensate the plaintiff and the plaintiff here is being completely wiped out, and under that law it is very clear that the plaintiff need not demonstrate that the value of Kivalina is greater than the value of fossil fuels. I mean, I think it is clear it’s not.” Matt Pawa, plaintiff attorney for the native village of Kivalina.
[35:30] “The problem here is not that they pleaded too little but they pleaded too much. I mean, their allegations are quite candid as to what it is that they are doing here. They don’t say that they can in fact do any kind of retraceability, they say it all gets filtered through a globally mediated system that mixes everything together and eliminates traceability, and then injuries pop out on the other side. So when you’ve made that kind of an allegation, everything else that we’ve argued legally flows from that, and it’s not so much an issue that they didn’t plead enough facts. And that’s why a leave to amend would have been futile in this case.” Daniel Collins (Munger, Tolles, & Olson), defendants’ attorney.