Thursday, May 05, 2011

Climate Change Solutions - Across Institutions, Cultures and Landscapes

[My notes here are on the fly. My intent is to give a sense of what is happening here today, but this is not any sort of official record. Contact individual speakers if you have specific questions. Consider this a starting point.]
(l-r)  Hartig, Balash, Holland-Bartels, Pendleton, Brown, Ulmer
This is the opening forum of the Classrooms for Climate Symposium at UAA.  I'm here because this is of interest and also I was asked to blog this.  So, my disclosure:  they've given me a media pass and I think that includes lunch and all sessions.  They've even linked here on their website  and also set out the conditions:
He is an independent blogger and opinions expressed by Steve are his own and do not reflect official positions of UAA or the U.S. Forest Service.
Margie Brown, CIRI
 I got here after the opening roundtable of youth participants and while the brand new Chancellor Tom Case introduced outgoing Chancellor and new Chair of the US Arctic Research Commission Fran Ulmer.  And she's introduced the panelists and now Margie Brown, President and CEO of Cook Inlet Regional Corporation is just finishing up.

Beth Pendleton, Regional Forester, US Forest Service, Alaska is now talking about USFS projects in Alaska around climate change - effects of fish and trees and people.

She mentioned research projects that will be presented here in the next few days and also about the student interns being used.  Climate change isn't the end of life, but it will challenge us with uncertainty and opportunities.

9:39am  Leslie Holland-Bartels US Geological Survey (USGS) - there was a relationship between the old agency Mineral Management Service.  .... Challenge of science is all the uncertainty of our research.  TV soundbites don't convey that.  Places on the landscape - we have species and many are migratory here in the north.  One story - gotwit, an Alaska shorebird in summer, then to New Zealand via China Yellow Sea.  Makes the 7000 mile trip to New Zealand non-stop.  The longest recorded.  How?  It gets onto the weather pattern to slingshot south.  How will climate change affect that.  Will the species adjust or stop migration.  Will it be able to find other places to feed?  How will it change the sites this bird visits?  Will it gain enough weight to make the flight?  How will the foodwebs in these 3 locations change?  It requires different thinking.  We need to think globally.  Growing up, we didn't have the tools of the perspective.  This is just one of thousands of species that call Alaska home.  We have to multiply this perspective by the thousands to understand our challenges.

Each of us from different agencies have different perspectives and how we look at this.  Some of us sit on the Climate Change Round Table where we can share.  New connections with UAA - physical and social sciences.

Joe Balash as deputy commissioner Alaska Department of Natural Resources.  [I think I need some staff.]  Climate change is affecting roads - ice roads to north aren't open long enough and we are looking at building year round roads.  Other challenges of climate change are coming from Congress - bills to limit CO2 emissions will affect us in many ways.  
Thinking through all the consequences that carbon limitations would have are things we have to think through as we develop our oil and gas.  Those consequences affect our revenue picture as a state.  It has the players in Juneau in special session right now arguing over a surplus.  In a decade we could be arguing over a decade.
The threat of carbon regulation is something we have to keep in mind, but there are other things being implemented today - endangered species act.  Through the actions of NGO's we are literally surrounded by endangered species.  Those additional requirements of critical habitats put more restrictions that impact our economy and people, and while not impossible to deal with, while not impossible, will seriously affect us.
Hartig and Balash
The long term projections on how our climate will change affects us in the short and long term.  That's the challenge we face and will continue to deal with.  Previous speakers also identified science as the key.  We try to make our decisions as often as possible on the best science.  We also rely on scientists.  Will continue to manage those resources with ever changing climate in mind.

Larry Hartig, Commissioner of Environmental Conservation.   We are a science and engineering based agency.  Most of our rules come from Federal laws implement through state agencies.  As climate change rules develop and change, we watch closely.  We will have to enforce them and we want them to make sense here.  We're different in many ways, and how climate change affects us.  I thought I would try to key on today:  Climate change impacts in Alaska.

Mitigation and Adaptation:  Mitigation is what is causing the change - like greenhouse gas emissions.  Adaptation is how do you prepare yourselves regardless of the causes.  I came here four years ago after private industry.  Then, everyone was thinking about mitigation, while adaptation is more important to Alaskans.

I remember a NYTimes interview on climate change in Alaska, and the longevity of carbon dioxide in atmosphere (140+years) and affect on the waters etc.  Given the concentrations in the models out there, we'll be dealing with this for 400 years.  NYTimes headline was, "Palin only concerned about adapation"  as though trying avoid mitigation.

That's changed quite a bit.  Now talking about adaptation.  Also, as people started talking about it.  Waxman-Marky bill, only focused on natural environment and not on human impacts or on infrastructure we depend on - water sources, highways, etc.  In Alaska, climate change here, not just temperature, but actually phase changes - ice changes to water, permafrost turns to mush, and wave surges that can hit our coasts.  Major changes.

Four years ago, state not looking at Climate change - Palin was first administration to look at climate change.  In spring 2007 thinking about this.  That fall, series of storms with fuel tanks full of fuel and no coastal ice and we could see the erosion and all the fuel headed for the water.  Fortunately, that fuel all got moved.  But it was desperate.

People themselves worried, one night decided to self-evacuate.  They are out in the middle of nowhere.  No roads.  Snow machines, Planes.  Elderly people.  State and federal government long ways off.  Governor formed climate change subcabinet that I chair - how to prepare for this.  Idea to bring key cabinet members dealing with this to be ready.  Also looking at 31 threatened communities.  Immediate Action Workgroup.  1.  Emergency preparedness  2.  Prevention    3.  Community planning.  Kivilina knew they needed to move, but didn't know how.  One place Corps of Engineers said no- that's permafrost and will melt.  So planning.  We aren't social engineers, telling people how to live their lives.  When we talk to them is provide viable options, but they have to make the decisions.  4.  Those that can't be re-placed.   Came up with plans, put training into place in most vulnerable communities.  Planning established a grant program with two types of grants - mini grants for assessment on community impacts and larger planning grant if you did have to move.  All that put into place in 1 or 2 years within start of Palin administration.  Workgroups from people all over the state.  Needed to build consensus.  Several reports on our climate change website.

Some of the regulations would affect heating oil in rural Alaska.  If they look at carbons emitted by turbines could cause serious problems.  A lot of agencies working on these issues, all science driven.  We should be able to get more of a consensus on the science and not argue over things we don't need to argue over.  It does seem more of a consensus is being built.  One is that adaptation needs to be addressed as well as mitigation.  And some of the dire predictions ???? [don't want to misquote him so I'll leave it vague]. 

I'm going to put this up now and add photos and videos later.

Q:  If consensus by scientists on climate change, but survey says 87% of Republicans don't believe climate change is real?
Ulmer:  90% of scientists believe in climate change.  Science literacy in US is abominable.  We rank in lower 10% on science literacy.  How will be able to compete?  President of Boeing yesterday said he feared future of US because we aren't taking science and development seriously enough and not seeing it as part of national security in addition to economy.  At all levels - including industry - no respect for science.  How has science been changed to something you can choose to believe or not.  Scientific literacy part of being a modern nation.  I would challenge each of us in each of our capacities, we have to think about this, work on it.  Other panelists?

Hartig:  Not just climate change, many arenas.  At meeting in SF for Permanent Fund and economist talked to me, saying, if you look at all things people struggle with, the hardest to grasp is climate change.  Complicated, you can't see, won't impact most people any time soon, or broad impact not obvious, people see they have less complicated options - buy new vehicle or like the old one.  People don't get the science.  Have to look at behavioral factors and how people make decisions.

Regional EPA director.  Back in Nixon generation there was a big fight over leaded gas.  Most people kept buying leaded because it was a few cents cheaper.  Until they took away the option, people would use it despite the science.  Right now it's too complicated.

Jeff:  Disconnect - while there were tornadoes destroying part of the country, Congress was cutting climate monitoring money from NOAA's budget and thinking how brilliant they were on cutting the budget.

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