Dec 2, 2013

Credit: usfws

Credit: usfws

Dear Alaska Senator and Representative,

I write to you today asking that you consider how to re-engage the State of Alaska in a robust response to the growing threat of climate change in Alaska.  

Whatever disagreements may exist regarding causes for the dramatic climate change Alaska is currently experiencing, it is a simple empirical observation that climate change is occurring, it is and will continue to be highly disruptive to the state’s economy and communities, and it would be irresponsible of us to continue to ignore this threat.  We desperately need a methodical, well-funded, robust response from state government.

Some of you may recall my request of all legislators in Dec. 2005, that you establish a legislative climate change commission, which you passed unanimously in the 2006 session (with the leadership of Sen. Olson and Rp. Joule), establishing the Alaska Climate Impact Assessment Commission.  As well, I proposed in 2006 that the Palin administration establish an Alaska Office on Climate Change and an Alaska Climate Change Response Fund.  Although Gov. Palin did not do such, she did establish the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet in Sept. 2007.  This was all a good start.

However, in the past four years, these efforts seem to have faltered.  The legislature’s climate commission ended in 2008

(, and the administration’s Climate Sub-Cabinet last met 3 years ago, and has essentially been terminated (…/governor-should-renew-alaskas-leading-role- climate-change-response).  The administration has yet to confirm that any of the recommendations of the former sub-cabinet have been implemented.  The legislature’s Arctic Policy Commission is a good endeavor, but not sufficient to provide the consistency and intensity of response by state government to climate change impacts that will be required in coming years.

Attached please find my September 4, 2013 letter to Governor Parnell requesting that the administration re-engage state government in a robust response effort to this growing threat.  In the letter, I request that the Governor:

1. address the issue of climate change (the 2014 state-of-the-state address may be a good venue to do such);

2. reestablish the Sub-Cabinet or alternatively, as I proposed to Gov. Palin, establish an Alaska Office on Climate Change;

3. report to the Alaska citizenry the status of implementing the recommendations of the sub-cabinet’s working groups;

4. engage the state diplomatically in the international effort to reduce carbon emissions to stabilize global climate; and

5. propose to the Legislature that it establish an Alaska Climate Change Fund, from a nominal 10 cent/barrel equivalent assessment on oil, gas, and coal produced from Alaska, modeled on the state’s oil spill fund.

I have yet to receive a reply to this request.

I respectfully ask that the Legislature make the issue of climate change response a priority in the upcoming session.

Specifically, I ask that a bill be introduced that would establish the Alaska Office on Climate Change (AOCC) and the Alaska Climate Change Fund to provide financial resources to conduct the operations deemed necessary by the AOCC.  As well, I ask that such a bill require the administration (via the to-be-established AOCC), to engage in the regional efforts to respond to this threat.

On that, I will attach here a September 28, 2009 letter sent from Gov. Parnell to regional governors, announcing that the State of Alaska would not be joining the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which has been one of the regional mechanisms to address this and other shared issues.  As well, a colleague and I recently proposed a new regional collaboration – the Western Climate Change Task Force – specifically on climate change response (attached).

I will eagerly look forward to your reply, and to working with you toward a more effective response to the growing threat and impacts from climate change in Alaska.

I wish you all a great holiday season, and a productive upcoming session.


Rick Steiner, Professor (Univ. of Alaska, ret.)

Oasis Earth

Anchorage, Alaska