Alaska’s Climate Change Strategy
Alaska is in the process of creating a statewide Climate Change Strategy to guide its programs and policies. Under the leadership of the Climate Change Sub-Cabinet, different advisory groups have provided recommendations on potential responses to climate change, including those on mitigation and adaptation. Using these recommendations, the Sub-Cabinet will develop a Climate Change Strategy for consideration by the Governor.
The Climate Change Sub-Cabinet was created in 2007 by Administrative Order 238 and charged with crafting an Alaska Climate Change Strategy. Primary impacts of concern to Alaska include erosion, extreme and more frequent storm events, sea ice retreat, and melting permafrost. The advisory groups set up by the Sub-Cabinet include those on Mitigation, Adaptation, Immediate Action, and Research Needs. The Mitigation Advisory Group is focused on oil and gas, energy supply and demand, transportation and land use, and forestry and agriculture; the Adaptation Advisory Group is focused on impacts to infrastructure, health, ecosystems, and economic activities. The Adaptation Advisory Group was charged by the Sub-Cabinet to provide recommendations on climate change responses; these recommendations will be evaluated by the Sub-Cabinet and submitted as a draft climate change strategy to the Governor for consideration.
In January 2010, the Adaptation Advisory Group released a final recommendations report. The final report acknowledges that climate change may have both positive and negative effects on the state. Climate change impacts and recommendations are provided by the following categories: Public Infrastructure, Ecosystems, Health, Economic Activities, and Overall.
This category includes roads and transportation, power and water utilities, and public buildings. Recommendations include:
- Create a coordinated system for key data collection of baseline information, analysis, and monitoring.
- Promote improvements in infrastructure that use best current practices.
- Site, plan, design, and build resilient infrastructure.
This category includes both ecosystems and ecosystem services; climate change impacts of concern include effects on species and habitats, the fishing industry, and subsistence harvesters. Recommendations include:
- Incorporate climate change into fisheries management
- Review existing state fisheries policies
- Conduct comprehensive assessment of existing monitoring programs
- Develop centralized information source on climate change impacts
- Develop long-term strategy to work with fishing communities and businesses
- Review and modify the state’s wildland fire policy and programs to adjust for projected climate change impacts, including increased fire frequency and size
- Increase community capacity to design and implement Community Wildlife Protection Plans
- Review wildland fire management practices in the state
- Develop a fuels management program for high-risk areas
- Review and adjust freshwater resources management through coordination and protection to improve adaptive capacity
- Be more proactive in addressing invasive and eruptive species through collaboration with other entities
- Improve state’s capacity to manage fish and wildlife in the face of climate change
- Develop more efficient regulatory policies for wildlife harvest
- Develop a framework to document fish and wildlife monitoring efforts, identify monitoring priorities, and identify data gaps
- Support sustainable agriculture and recognize its importance to the state’s food security
- Encourage local, community-based agriculture
- Determine food consumption in the state
- Research food supply sources and associated risks
Public health issues of concern with global climate change include increased infectious diseases, risk of contaminant exposure, and vulnerability of solid waste management. Recommendations include:
- Improve tracking and control programs for vector-, water-, and food-borne diseases
- Evaluate adaptation and mitigation options for potential adverse health effects
- Assess sanitation infrastructure risks and practices and arrange for possible modification, rebuilding, or relocation
- Assess and develop plans for archaeological sites at risk from erosion
Some of Alaska’s major industries, such as tourism, mining, oil and gas exploration, and shipping, are at risk from climate change; at the same time, climate change may create economic opportunities for these industries. Recommendations include:
- Evaluate needs for the expansion of activities in the Arctic
- Develop and evaluate economic scenarios for the state
- Improve information availability (e.g., mapping, surveying, charting)
In addition to the aforementioned categories, the Adaptation Advisory Group also provided some overall recommendations for consideration in the final strategy.
- Establish an Alaska Climate Change Knowledge Network, which would be responsible for organizing and archiving climate information and knowledge
- Coordinate efforts between state agencies and with federal agencies on climate change research and responses
- Support vulnerable communities in emergency response, relocation, and subsistence concerns
- Promote climate science through K-12 education
Outcomes and Conclusions
The Adaptation Advisory Group provided its final recommendations in a January 2010 report to the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet. This report, along with recommendations provided by the Mitigation, Immediate Action, and Research Needs working groups, will be evaluated by the Sub-Cabinet and ultimately submitted as the state’s Climate Change Strategy to the Governor for approval.
Gregg, R. M. (2010). Alaska's Climate Change Strategy [Case study on a project of the Office of the Governor of Alaska]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/alaska’s-climate-change-strategy (Last updated December 2010)