Alaska Climate Impact Assessment Commission releases its final report – effecting policy decisions at all levels of state government.

Following on the heels of research into the rapid increase in the melting of sea ice, Alaska’s legislatively appointed Alaska Climate Impact Assessment Commission released its final report to the Legislature and Palin administration. The report includes the result of two years inquiry into the potential impacts of climate change on the state’s citizens, communities, natural resources, state assets, and its economy.

The situation for the Arctic is summed up in the following quote from the report:

“Global climate models have projected that the Arctic is an area where changes to the climate may be the largest in the world. The models predict a greater warming for the Arctic than the rest of the world. Alaska, as part of the Arctic, is already experiencing dramatic climate change.”

Changes in sea ice, sea surface temperature, sea level change, and the thawing of the permafrost and melting of glaciers present opportunities and challenges to people and ecosystems of Alaska and these are examined.

In fact, Alaska is among the first to have to make decisions that are proactive in the face of the daunting challenges posed by climate change.

The processes foreshadowed will require planning that encompasses risk assessment, mitigation and protection where required and relocation of severely affected communities. Underlying these needs is funding from local and federal sources. To be able to coordinate these decision processes in an efficient manner, the reports highlights the need for a more centralised and coordinated data collection that will reflect the true situations as they arise and assist in planning and mitigation.

The main areas of concern to tackled by the committee in their deliberations took in:

public health and communities (health, municipal impacts); fish and game impacts (commercial, sport, subsistence); forest impacts (state and federal assets, wildfire suppression, related economic issues); economic impacts (tourism, construction, transportation, insurance, federal spending, agriculture, and flooding/erosion/permafrost damage); resource development ( oil and gas, mining, support industries); policy and regulatory aspects (land use, alternative energy, other legislation / regulation changes); state assets at risk (harbors, bridges, roadways, airports, parks).

The report includes the following impacts expected through the rise of sea level and melting of ice structures: increased flooding of low lying property; increasing frequency and severity of storm surges exacerbated by the loss of coastal sea ice; loss of coastal wetlands due to coastal erosion; saltwater contamination of drinking water; and increased need to relocate coastal villages. It is admitted that several communities are currently experiencing these effects and that the number of villages threatened is expected to increase.

In addition, is is expected that rural communities will face: loss of critical infrastructure; impaired delivery of fuel and other critical supplies when critical infrastructure such as barge landings are lost; increasing costs to community to pay for more expensive delivery of fuels and critical supplies; deteriorating infrastructure due to funding agency constraints to invest in threatened villages; reduced quality of life and increased public health problems due to failing infrastructure, impaired water supplies, poor sanitation particularly in communities without water/sewerage infrastructure.

For each of these areas there have been recommendations in relation to budgetary constraints, policy and regulatory requirements and expected mitigation measures. These can be read in more detail in Attachment F to the report. In addition subsistence and fishing resources are also examined. It is foreshadowed that there will be a loss of quality of life, loss of fishing income and jobs related to tourist fishing. As mentioned in previous posts it is acknowledged that extreme conditions may precipitate mass migrations and possible international conflict. (Attachment F, p.86)

Some of the interesting key long term impacts for the Department of Environmental Conservation with an extended period of warming discussed on page 102-3(Attachment F) are:

Increased incidents of community, industrial or military landfill sites becoming exposed to surface waters or marine waters through melting permafrost, failure of freeze-back engineering designs or erosion induced by sea level rise, river floods or storm waves – a public health and environmental contamination risk.

Increased risks of oil spills in the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean from offshore development and increased marine traffic as the Northwest Passage becomes a viable year round sea route – increases the need for spill prevention planning and response capabilities at government and private sector operations.

Warmer temperatures may bring invasive species carrying new diseases increasing the risk of contamination of drinking water supplies.

It is obvious that in spite of the economic benefits of increased exploration potential and the shipping and trade from the opening of the Northwest Passage, the difficulties for communities and the ecology of the Alaska will be great. A complete change in the way of living is envisaged, as are the economic difficulties in sustaining communities in the face of such dire impacts. The fact that these difficulties are already being experienced by some, and will no doubt increase, is a political and economic challenge for those government and agencies that will have to regulate and offer assistance. It is timely for the rest of the world to realise that the time has come when the way we live is impacting on others far from us and that we will not be immune from the dislocations of whole populations that may result.

For those interested in reading more the press release site can be accessed at the following link.

The link for the report itself can be found at the top of this post.

It is worth reading for all those who want to understand the processes that we will have to face as climate change affects our own nations. In fact we are all affected by the changes experienced in Alaska already!

~ by abstraktbiblos on Monday, 24 March, 2008.

One Response to “Alaska Climate Impact Assessment Commission releases its final report – effecting policy decisions at all levels of state government.”

  1. […] abstraktbiblos releases another great post on Alaska Climate Impact Assessment Commission releases its final … Check it out: […]

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