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Alaska can win the battle against climate change

  • Author: George Donart
    | Opinion
  • Updated: December 1, 2018
  • Published December 1, 2018

Johns Hopkins Glacier on a clear and sunny day. (Photo courtesy National Park Service)

Right now, Alaska is losing. But we can be winning.

We’re losing to climate change. We are losing our hunting. My neighbor brings home a moose every year, but because it was too warm to hang the meat, he didn’t pull the trigger all season. Our fish are losing to ocean warming. This year’s fishing disasters included a complete closure at Chignik, 80 percent cut in Pacific cod catch, another salmon failure in Prince William Sound.

We are losing our coastal villages. The rapidly melting permafrost no longer girds the shoreline of the North Slope, and our northernmost communities may wash away in the next two decades. Alaska is losing its infrastructure. Repaving, breaks in sewer and water lines, sudden sinkholes and tilted foundations already dot our towns and cities.

We are losing our forests. Spruce bark beetles are back for Round 2 after devastating a huge swath of Alaska’s white spruce. We are losing our safety as more severe storms, wildfires and thinner ice roads take their toll on Alaskans’ lives. And we are losing the Alaska that sustains and feeds us and inspires us.

With each loss, our lives become smaller. And according to the National Climate Assessment released by the Trump administration and reported in the ADN, Alaska’s losses will continue to grow if we don’t take strong action soon.

Perhaps one of the biggest losses we suffer, both here in Alaska and in our nation, is the loss of civility. For too long, we’ve been using derogatory names for people who have different views on climate change. And those names often begin with ‘'Democrat'’ or ‘'Republican."

Fortunately, we can change a whole lot of this loss to wins, both for Alaska and our whole country. In the past 10 years in the U.S. Congress, we’ve had climate bills introduced by Republicans and climate bills introduced by Democrats, but for the first time ever, we have both Democrats and Republicans sponsoring the same climate legislation together. That’s a win. Seeing significant climate impacts in their states, Republican Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Francis Rooney joined Democrats Ted Deutch, John Delaney and Charlie Crist to sponsor The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, an effective, efficient and fair carbon pricing bill.

The most significant climate change legislation Congress has seen in over a decade, the act goes further than any national policy to date. That’s a win. It will create more than 2 million new jobs, lower health impacts and costs, promote energy innovation, and encourage consumer spending. This market-based approach will drive down carbon pollution by 33 percent during the next 10 years (that’s a win), while putting money in people’s pockets. Another win. It is good for business, drives innovation, investment in new industries and creates jobs. More wins. The science tells us that this is probably rapid enough to avoid the worst impacts of ocean warming and climate change and keep us under 1.5°C of warming.

But it’s not done yet, and Congressman Don Young can move it a long way by supporting the act. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan can begin working across the aisle to craft a companion bill in the Senate.

This bipartisan climate solutions act can help us bridge the breach that has often divided us, move us on a safe path to cleaner fuels for ourselves and our children. We can win by setting aside partisan differences and, for the good of our nation and the world, win by addressing the threat of climate change by enacting the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act in the next Congress.

George Donart is a retired teacher and commercial fisherman, and a member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

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