Global warming to take center stage at forum

Anchorage event expected to draw 1,200

Posted: Monday, January 22, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Global warming issues will be the main focus Feb. 12-16 in Anchorage, as participants in the 2007 Alaska Forum on the Environment discuss the significance of climate change to Alaska, the Arctic and the nation.

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The event, expected to attract more than 1,200 Alaskans from throughout the state, will draw on commentary from 20 nationally recognized experts on global warming, said Deborah Williams of Alaska Conservation Solutions, who is helping to coordinate the event.

Alaska is already experiencing significant adverse impacts from global warming, from melting permafrost and coastal erosion to increased fires and changes in migration patterns of terrestrial and marine life.

Some regions of the state are experiencing thinning or the absence of ice, dramatic vegetation changes, drying lakes and ponds, bird deaths, infrastructure damage and more.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has for several years worked to secure funding to assist coastal communities severely impacted by shoreline erosion problems so dramatic that entire communities will need to be moved.

This year's gathering will bring together scientists, tribal leaders, government representatives, community members, Native and environmental organizations, industry and other sectors to focus on important and timely environmental issues. Complete information on the event is available at

One panel of experts will discuss relocating Newtok, a western Alaskan community that must be moved because of global warming. The panel includes representatives from Newtok, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Denali Commission, the Alaska Energy Authority and others.

The conference speakers list includes Glenn Juday, a University of Alaska Fairbanks professor of forest ecology and expert on the impacts of global warming on boreal forests; Larry Merculieff, an Aleut leader and chair of the Alaska Native Science Commission; polar bear expert Eric Regehr of the U.S. Geological Survey; Richard Feeley, an ocean acidification expert with the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory; and Robert Corell, an internationally acclaimed climate change expert who chairs the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.

Also on the speakers' list are Fran Ulmer, director of Institute of Social and Economic Research; Brad Reeve, wind power expert in rural Alaska and general manager of Kotzebue Electric Association; and Bernie Karl, geothermal expert, who is pioneering low-temperature geothermal electric generation in Chena Hot Springs.

In conjunction with the conference, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich will convene a special meeting on global warming Feb. 16 for business leaders.

Suzanne Fleeks, a spokeswoman for the municipality, said this initial meeting was called to educate businesses on steps they can take to gain economic and environmental benefits during global warming.

Fleeks said Begich also will talk about steps the municipality is taking to save money and reduce emissions costs on a local level, including using compact florescent light bulbs and retrofitting city hall with attention to energy savings through more efficient heating, ventilation and lighting.

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