U.S. Senator Mark Begich, who has been leading the charge to respond to the effects of climate change in the Arctic, responded to the third U.S. National Climate Assessment with interest but not surprise saying the report “confirms what Alaskans already know.” The report, the nation’s third as required under the Global Change Research Act of 1990, has been touted as the most comprehensive scientific assessment ever generated of climate change and its impacts across every region of America and major sectors of the U.S. economy.
“Today’s report just confirms what Alaskans already know—Alaska is experiencing the impacts of climate change more than any other state,” said Begich. “We see it when Alaska Natives are unable to hunt because of the instability of the ice pack and the disappearing sea ice, and I hear from our fishermen who are concerned about the effects of ocean acidification on Alaska’s world-class fisheries. I’ve long been a supporter of more scientific research to get to the bottom of these growing problems and to find effective solutions that work for Alaska.”
The report details issues of specific concern to Alaskans including disappearing sea ice, melting glaciers and thawing permafrost, all of which are predicted to have dire economic consequences. According to the assessment:
- Permafrost thaw in Alaska is projected to add between $3.6 and $6.1 billion to the current costs of maintaining public infrastructure such as roads, buildings, pipelines and airports over just the next two decades alone.
- The ocean at large has increased in acidity by 30 percent and Northern waters – the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea, and North Pacific – are particularly susceptible to ocean acidification. More than 60 percent of the U.S. domestic catch of fish comes from Alaska waters and that catch generates approximately $5 billion in economic activity. This figure does not include the economic impact to subsistence and sport users.
“At the end of the day, we need action based on facts—not more debate,” said Begich. “Alaskans want better research to ensure that we find effective solutions. That’s why I’m pleased that one of Alaska’s leading experts on this issue, Northwest Borough Mayor Reggie Joule, serves on the President’s local government task force for climate adaptation. Reggie knows firsthand the impacts of climate change and brings his real-world experience and Alaska perspective to this important conversation.”
Begich nominated Joule to the task force in 2013.