Alaska—‘ground zero’ for climate change, says governor
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November 03, 2017
Alaska—‘ground zero’ for climate change, says governor

Saying that Alaska’s future prosperity and ability to protect its citizens depends on “a collective and strategic response to climate change,” Governor Bill Walker signed an administrative order establishing the Alaska Climate Change Strategy and a 15-member climate action leadership team.

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“Alaska is the United States’ ground zero for the impacts of climate change,” said Walker. “Alaskans should be at the forefront of innovation and response.”

Need for nonrenewable resources recognized

In his order, Walker notes that, as the northernmost state, Alaska is America’s Arctic, and its communities face accelerating rates of erosion, risking sea levels, ocean acidification, rapidly thawing permafrost, and changing intensity of wildland fires.

The order states:

“These physical changes threaten people’s safety and security, undermine the social and cultural fabric of our communities, and disproportionately affect those on the front lines of climate change. To assure Alaska’s continued growth and resilience despite climate challenges requires communities statewide to work together as they have throughout Alaska’s history to pioneer solutions to our most difficult problems. These solutions require creating a vision for Alaska’s future that incorporates long-term climate goals, yet recognizes the need for nonrenewable resources to meet current economic and energy requirements during a transition to a renewable energy-based future.”

Paris climate goals supported

The governor says the state will engage with national and international partners to seek collaborative solutions to climate change that support the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13— Climate Action.

The planned climate action leadership team will comprise members that provide “broad, Alaska-based representation” from key stakeholder groups, including local governments, indigenous organizations, private sector entities, educators and academia, youth, and other, the order states. Building on already completed research, analysis, and policy recommendations, the team is directed to address:

  • Mitigation. Actions to reduce, sequester, and offset greenhouse gas emissions to decrease Alaska’s carbon footprint.
  • Adaptation. Actions to evaluate risks and adopt measures to address or reduce the vulnerability of Alaska’s citizens, environment, and infrastructure to climate change impacts.
  • Research. Actions to support and bolster monitoring, observing, modeling, scientific analysis, data sharing, planning, innovation, and public outreach and education related to climate change and mitigation and adaptation strategies.
  • Response. Actions to plan and train for timely and robust responses to protect and address near-term threats to Alaska’s communities and regions from current consequences and impacts of climate change, including, but not limited to, ocean acidification, coastal erosion, storm impacts, oil and other toxic spills, and infrastructure change.

Walker will appoint members to the leadership team later this year.

The governor is an Independent who took office in December 2014.

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