Alaska is "ground zero" for climate change impacts in the United States.
Alaskans support national climate change legislation - more than 70 percent surveyed in a recent poll supported taking immediate action to address climate change. And this week, a bill currently being discussed before the U.S. Senate could bring tens of billions of dollars to Alaska to help adapt to our changing climate.
America's Climate Security Act, introduced by Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., recently became the first piece of climate change legislation to be sent to the Senate floor for debate. Mandatory congressional action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions could help offset some of the impacts of climate change while fostering a transition to an energy-independent economy.
Alaskans are already seeing the effects of a warming Arctic climate in shifting wildlife migratory patterns, changes to fisheries, forest fire activity, insect infestation, and the costs of maintaining Alaska's critical infrastructure. These impacts make it obvious that immediate action is necessary in order to confront this challenge.
Industry leaders in Alaska and the rest of the country are also concerned about how we respond to a changing climate. For example, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, composed of industry giants such as BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Alcoa, General Electric, DuPont, Ford and many others have endorsed mandatory emissions reduction targets of 10-30 percent from current emissions within 15 years and 60-80 percent reductions by 2050. Congress is considering several bills that embrace this target, but each has different means of reaching that goal.
America's Climate Security Act is an opportunity for Alaska to receive significant funding to help our state adapt to climate change. This share of revenue from the bill could be worth more than $50 billion for Alaska adaptation efforts over the next four decades. The Lieberman-Warner bill offers a strong starting point for action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and Alaskans should embrace this opportunity for our state.
Former commissioner, Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Director, Nature Conservancy's Salmon Program