Global Warming: Making Solutions Locally Accessible (Alaska)
- Wednesday, 8 November 2006
GLOBAL WARMING: MAKING SOLUTIONS LOCALLY ACCESSIBLE
by Deborah L. Williams and Heather Benz *
NEW HAVEN, USA (IPS) - Americans throughout the country are becoming
increasingly concerned about global warming. According to a recent
Zogby poll, 74 percent are more convinced today that global warming
is a reality than two years ago.
Now, we want to know what to do to about it, especially how to reduce
our emissions and become effective advocates. Individuals want
solutions that are relevant to where we live, straightforward,
accessible, and easy to implement. With this goal in mind, Alaska
Conservation Solutions (ACS) unveiled a new global warming Website in
September 2006, available online at
Like many places throughout the world, Alaska is experiencing
numerous adverse impacts from global warming. Because the annual
average temperature in Alaska has warmed over 4 degrees F in the last
50 years, these effects are pervasive in America's largest and most
northern state. Alaskan communities are losing valuable
infrastructure to erosion and melting permafrost, and at least three
communities will have to be moved in the next 10 to 15 years, costing
hundreds of millions of dollars.
Lakes are drying; forests of yellow cedar, white spruce and larch are
dying; and polar bears are drowning and may be turning to
cannibalism. Sea ice is thinning and retreating, threatening Alaska
Native subsistence activities and ice dependent species. The Yukon
River alone has warmed 10 degrees Fahrenheit (F) in the last 25
years, resulting in a new, serious disease, Icthyophonus, which is
infecting 45 percent of the river's Chinook salmon population. Global
warming is even adversely affecting oil and gas exploration,
production and transportation in Alaska, as well as resulting in
buckling highways and bike paths.
All of these effects are costly and disruptive, but they are just the
proverbial melting tip of the iceberg. If global warming continues
its accelerating trend because of increased human emissions of
greenhouse gases, Alaska is projected to warm as much as 25 degrees F
by the end of the century. A common response to this is: "what can we
do?" "How can we help?"
These questions especially arise after people understand that "Human
activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels have increased the
concentration of carbon dioxide, methane, and other heat-trapping
gases in the atmosphere There is an international scientific
consensus that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is
attributable to human activities," as noted in the 2004 Arctic
Climate Impact Assessment report.
The impacts from global warming in Alaska are amplified, but not
unique. On a weekly basis scientists and others are documenting the
costly, adverse effects from global warming on other states and
countries. Given this stark reality, what are some actions that
individuals can take to reduce emissions?
Some carbon-based energy conservation actions are very
straightforward and do not require state specific information to
adopt most easily, such as unplugging appliances when not in use. But
many actions are more readily implemented with location specific
information, from bus schedules to locations where energy efficient
appliances can be purchased.
The Alaska Conservation Solutions website features three hands-on
1) An Alaska-specific carbon calculator,
2) Scores of practical, highly linked tips for minimizing personal
carbon emissions throughout the state (the Alaska Carbon Reducer);
3) Sample advocacy letters for taking action at the local, utility,
state, and national levels (see the Be Heard section).
Designed by a team of staff, volunteers, and a gifted intern, the
goal of the Website is to educate Alaskans about the effects
individual residents have on the environment through their carbon
footprint, and to offer simple, straightforward, locally relevant
methods that can be taken to reduce emissions and often save money.
Many of these actions are universally applicable to individuals
throughout the nation and world.
Personalized by each region of Alaska, the ACS Carbon Calculator
allows individuals to see how much they contribute to global warming
by asking a series of simple questions, including vehicle use,
flights taken each year, and the cost paid each month for
electricity. The calculations can be easily completed in a few
In order to be responsive to Alaskans' way of life, the calculator
also includes questions about snow machine and other off-road vehicle
use and small airplane use. The calculator also explicitly notes how
much of a region's electricity is generated from renewable resources,
an important educational component. The Website computes an
individual's average annual carbon emissions, while comparing it with
the Alaska average, and then offers a multitude of suggestions to
reduce one's personal emissions.
Many carbon reduction methods on the Website also save money, such as
lowering one's home thermostat while at work or on vacation.
Ideas and links for reducing emissions are clustered into three
categories: Conservation; Energy efficiency; and Renewables.
- The complete article by Deborah L. Williams and Heather Benz, including
photos and figures, is located at: