NBC Treks to Arctic Alaska to Find ‘America’s First Climate Change Refugees’ ‘Living in Fear’

As part of President Barack Obama’s visit to Alaska this week to promote climate change, Tuesday’s NBC Nightly News showcased investigative correspondent Cynthia McFadden’s trek to Arctic Alaska ahead of Obama to meet “some of America’s first climate change refugees” due to rising seas near their villages.

In one of two teases, anchor Lester Holt told viewers to stay tuned for a look at “[t]he vanishing happening at the top of the world” with “[f]amilies bracing to flee what would be the first American refugees of climate change.”

Holt declared in the second tease that there’s “an emergency at the top of the world right now” as “American families are living in fear as a rapidly changing climate threatens to inundate them.”

Before turning things over to McFadden, Holt explained that “[e]ntire communities [are] melting away under the feet of those who call them home” and “creating the real threat of a climate-caused American refugee crisis.”

Promoting how “NBC News has spent the past four months reporting throughout America's vast Arctic,” McFadden hyped that “[n]owhere are the problems more urgent than in Shishmaref, which scientists say is just one bad storm away from being wiped off the map” with the ice melting now “as much as 20 feet a year to errosion.”

With homes and “600 lives that are at stake,” McFadden followed Holt’s lead in breaking the news to viewers: “These people are about to become some of America's first climate change refugees.”

Offering no opposing viewpoint on global warming, McFadden heavily promoted Cheryl Rosa with the U.S. Arctic Research Commission since she’s been tasked with listening to residents of affected villages and then “report back to the White House.”

Concluding that “30 other Alaskan villages face the same peril as Shishmaref,” McFadden vaguely trumpeted the argument of “[s]cientists” who “say if the oceans continue to rise, it won't just be an Arctic problem but one for the rest of us too.”

The relevant portions of the transcript from September 1's NBC Nightly News are transcribed below.

NBC Nightly News
September 1, 2015
7:00 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: The Vanishing]

LESTER HOLT: The vanishing happening near the top of the world. Our team on an extraordinary journey to a place that is rapidly disappearing. Families bracing to flee what could be the first American refugees of climate change.

(....)

7:13 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

HOLT: It's an emergency at the top of the world right now, and Americans are right on the front lines. Up next, our journey to a spectacular place on Earth where American families are living in fear as a rapidly changing climate threatens into inundate them. 

(....)

7:16 p.m. Eastern

HOLT: We're back with an incredible report you'll only see on NBC News. Entire communities melting away under the feet of those who call them home. We visit a pair of villages this evening on the eve of the President's visit to the one furthest north. Two towns facing the same fate, creating the real threat of a climate-caused American refugee crisis. NBC's Cynthia McFadden takes us there. 

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: There's no better way to see what's happening in the Arctic than to arrive by boat in Kotzebue, Alaska. When Mr. Obama lands here, he'll become the first President to visit the American arctic.

(....)

MCFADDEN: But his land is changing fast as temperatures warm twice as rapidly here as the rest of the planet. NBC News has spent the past four months reporting throughout America's vast Arctic, a place of tradition and dramatic change. Nowhere are the problems more urgent than in Shishmaref, which scientists say is just one bad storm away from being wiped off the map. The ice that once protected their fragile shoreline from big fall storms is melting and now, they're losing as much as 20 feet a year to erosion. 

FORMER KOTZEBUE MAYOR WILLIE GOODWIN JR.: The ocean comes in pretty good. The water comes up pretty high. 

MCFADDEN: And because they're so isolated here, it's not just home but 600 lives that are at stake. 

GOODWIN: What are we going to do if we get a major flood? I'd say we have to move. 

MCFADDEN: These people are about to become some of America's first climate change refugees. 

(....)

U.S. ARCTIC RESEARCH COMMISSION’s CHERYL ROSA: They're telling their older children they don't want them to go hunting on the ice because it's too dangerous and they don't want to lose them. 

MCFADDEN: Cheryl Rosa is here to listen to them and report back to the White House. A decade ago, the locals voted to move to this higher ground, 12 miles away, but discovered that like the ice, the permafrost, that is, the ground, is melting too. 

ROSA: It's not easy to move a village. 

MCFADDEN: It's not cheap, either. $180 million according to the Army Corps of Engineers. That's $300,000 per person and moving even a few miles means cutting ties with ancestral lands that have sustained them and kept their traditions alive for centuries. Clifford Wiwana says even if they had the money to move, he worries his people cannot survive anywhere else. 

(....)

MCFADDEN: Cash is hard to come by, and in the grocery store, cereal is over six bucks. Sugar costs $9. Three times what most of us pay, but that's nothing compared to the human cost of staying....MCFADDEN: 30 other Alaskan villages face the same peril as Shishmaref. Scientists say if the oceans continue to rise, it won't just be an Arctic problem but one for the rest of us too.

NBDaily Environment Global Warming Weather Media Bias Debate Bias by Omission Liberals & Democrats NBC NBC Nightly News Alaska Video Government & Press Lester Holt Cynthia McFadden
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