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Enjoy July

But keep climate change in mind.


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It’s hard to remember, while basking in July sun, the past winter across the U.S. where ice and snow storms ruled, and freezing temperatures and floods and other natural disasters were as common as rain in Southeast Alaska. As we enjoy our finest season, perhaps one warmer than usual, we forget our own winter was mild compared to the good ol’ years when Anchorage saw weeks of below zero temperatures, even weeks of below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

I’ve been here long enough to know Alaska winters are cold; and I’ve been here long enough to know this one was a nice exception.

So how do I feel about climate change? Notice, I don’t say global warming, but climate change, which Webster’s New World College Dictionary (Fourth Edition) does not define, and dictionary.com describes as “any long-term significant change in the weather patterns of an area.”

That means some areas get warmer, some get colder, some get wetter, some drier. Some get more snow, some less. There’s more tornadoes and fewer tornadoes, and on and on. Some say it’s because of man, some say it’s due to natural rhythms of the environment.

I’m not going to debate. I’m just going to admit, it is happening.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ALASKA?

If you don’t visit the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research website (www.iser.uaa.alaska.edu/), you should. There are always new studies, research and data relevant to Alaska industry and other topics. It’s got a plethora of information, which is based on fact, based on an incredible amount of research, and based on the efforts of people like Peter Larsen and Scott Goldsmith, who together wrote a report titled “How Much Might Climate Change Add to Future Costs of Public Infrastructure?”

Mind you, this report is three years old, but right on target. Three years ago, when climate change was a darkening shadow on the hearts and minds of worldwide leaders, these Alaskans reported a warmer Alaska that would result in a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in costs to maintain and build public infrastructure in Alaska between then and 2030. The reason, permafrost thaws, floods increase and coastal erosion worsens.

It will wreak havoc with our roads and airports. It will wreak havoc in Arctic communities. It will wreak havoc in Barrow, where sea ice is melting and polar bears are at risk.

WHAT’S THE STATE HAVE TO SAY?

The State goes beyond climate change to describe global warming the issue, mainly due to manmade greenhouse gas emissions, but also by natural processes and activities, its website stated.

In a report titled “Climate Change in Alaska,” it stated globally 2005 was the warmest year on record, when looking back to records as old as 1880. The Arctic was especially hard hit, with “perennial sea ice decreasing by 9 percent per decade since 1979.”

The report goes on to state that “Less ice means more open water – which means greater absorption of solar energy – which leads to increased warming in the ocean, and in turn accelerates more ice loss.”

Four points were addressed:

•               Melting Glaciers, Rising Sea Levels and Flooding of Coastal Communities

•               Thawing Permafrost, Increased Storm Severity

•               Loss of Subsistence Way of Life

•               Forest Fires and Insect Infestations

Whether climate change, or global warming, is manmade, a change in the ecosystem, or a combination of both, it is happening, despite the Lower 48’s unusually bitter winter. So while you are basking in July’s warmth, think of ways to address the situation, inform yourself, and above all, don’t ignore it.

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