New federal report: Climate change is going to be expensive in Alaska and impact every household in the state

Coastal erosion reveals the extent of ice-rich permafrost underlying active layer in the Teshekpuk Lake special area of Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve . (Photo by Brandt Meixell/USGS)

The latest National Climate Assessment was released today. The report devotes an entire chapter to Alaska and it describes the state as one of the fastest warming places on earth.

Fairbanks-based climatologist Rick Thoman helped write it.

He says one of the big takeaways for Alaska is that it’s going to be expensive to adapt to climate change and that will be felt in every household across the state.

Thoman says another key finding is that rural Alaskans will notice the impacts of climate change a lot more than Alaskans in cities.

“Some of that is socio-economic ability to respond to change,” he said. “Some of it is geography with many coastal rural communities very vulnerable to things like coastal flooding.”

The chapter on Alaska addresses things we’ve heard a lot about, like Arctic sea ice retreat and coastal erosion, but also less obvious threats, like the growing risk climate change poses to human health.

Thoman says the Alaska chapter was written by Alaskans, for Alaskans, and is much more specific than other big climate change reports. He says that means it can be used as a planning document for climate change.

“From the community level to the state government level, this can potentially serve as a resource to how do we move forward in the most economically viable, sustainable way,” he said.

A law requires a national climate assessment to be delivered to Congress and the president every four years. This is volume two of the most recent assessment. Volume one was released last year and was focused more on the science of climate change.

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Annie Feidt is the Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie