Unless you have lived in Alaska for only a couple years you will have no doubt noticed incredible changes in the weather. From Barrow to Bethel and all points in between, no one can deny that these changes in climate are pronounced, tangible, and often frightening.
For many, these changes seem to be an upgrade. Who wouldn’t prefer 40º days in January? From a simple humanistic point of view a warmer climate seems like an improvement but this is not true. Our lives, lifestyle, and livelihoods will all be radically altered if the warming trend continues.
For instance, many coastal communities will have to be evacuated or moved if sea levels rise and warming continues. Loss of sea ice allows storms to blow on open water, which, generates waves and causes coastal erosion. It has been estimated that the cost per person to relocate is upwards of $7million, and the average village population is 300. The salmon many of us depend on for livelihood and sustenance are hatched and reared in streams and lakes – habitats that are warming. If a threshold in temperature is crossed, productivity drops. The warmer it gets the worse this becomes. Wildfires are increasing at an incredible rate and in the last few years we’ve even begun to see tundra fires. Tundra fires destroy caribou habitat and wildfires destroy homes and infrastructure.
These are just a few of the many examples of how our lives will be altered in the immediate future if climate warming is allowed to proceed unchecked.
Climate change is so big. It is so massive an issue and phenomena that it is tempting to throw your hands up in the face of it and hide under the covers. This issue is singular and humanity has never had to face a challenge this daunting. There seem to be two general reactions to the climate change issue. One reaction is to modify personal behavior. These people often ride their bikes to work, carpool, fly less, eat locally grown food, insulate their homes and generally consider ways to reduce their personal carbon footprint. The other reaction is more nihilistic. Because the issue of climate change is so intimidating some people choose to ignore it and hope it just goes away.
Neither of these reactions is very useful. There is tremendous value in minimizing personal impact. However, if we continue to work only in small pockets and as individuals the cumulative impact is negligible - like trying to demolish a skyscraper armed with nothing more than a dull spoon. In order to tackle the issue of climate change, policy and action is needed on a state, national, and international level.
The solution to solving climate change is to attach a price on carbon. The carbon we emit, by burning fossil fuels, is what economists call a negative externality – a cost that is suffered by a third party as the result of an economic transaction. In this case, the third party is the entire biosphere and all future generations.
The way scientists measure greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is in parts per million. Before the Industrial Revolution the global average of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (280ppm). Since the late 1800’s that number has increased to over 400 parts per million. What caused this incredible increase of atmospheric CO2? The wholesale adoption of fossil fuels as our primary energy, and extensive destruction of natural carbon sinks, is what changed.
Climatologists, and other scientists who study climate issues, agree that if the global average temperature rises more than 2ºC (3.6º Fahrenheit) there will be massive disruption to biodiversity and human livelihood. It has also been estimated that in order to keep us below the 2ºC increase we should have no more than 350 parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere. The time to reduce our carbon footprint was yesterday, but now will have to do.
In 2008 British Columbia implemented a carbon tax that by all accounts has proven wildly successful. The B.C. carbon tax is revenue neutral, meaning that as people pay for the negative externalities they are responsible for, by burning fossil fuels, other taxes decrease. At the heart of the B.C. carbon tax is a simple idea: tax what society does not like or finds harmful and encourage the things society does like, e.g. jobs and income.
Since 2008, B.C.’s fossil fuel consumption has dropped by 18% and their rate of economic growth has kept pace with the rest of Canada over that time – dispelling the myth that carbon taxes are bad for job growth and the economy.
Here in Alaska we do not have an income tax but we do have property taxes and we do have the PFD. A well-defined and aggressive tax on carbon could reduce the pressure on property ownership and save the PFD for future generations, as was intended. We are in fiscal and environmental crisis mode here in Alaska. A carbon tax may be the silver bullet to both.
As state government debates and discusses ways to save Alaska from financial ruin taxing carbon needs to be dripping off of everyone’s lips. Currently, low oil prices are terrible for our economy but low oil prices are a painless time to begin taxing carbon. It is time to take responsibility into our own hands and remove it from the oil companies and OPEC.
It is entirely unlikely that there is a single Alaskan who does not value wild salmon, caribou herds, distinctive native cultures, majestic glaciers and wildly abundant biodiversity. Climate change threatens all of these and more. It is time for us to take a stand to protect what we love.
Bjorn Olson - Thursday, May 28, 2015
Welcome to Kachemak Bay Conservation Societies’ new website. Please take a minute to peruse the various pages, get a sense of who we are and consider becoming a member.
Kachemak Bay Conservation Society was loosely formed in 1976 as a reaction to the disastrous George Ferris oil-rig incident. In 1981 the society became a 501.c3 nonprofit and is the second oldest conservation nonprofit in Alaska.
Through advocacy, education, information and collaboration the mission of KBCS is to protect the environment of the Kachemak Bay region and the state of Alaska. Areas of specific concern are salmon habitat protections, oil and gas development, climate change, ocean acidification and responsible stewardship of our natural resources to name a few.
KBCS is excited to be the sponsoring and administrative organization for Salmonfest, formerly known as Salmonstock. Salmonfest is a three-day celebration of fish and music in Ninilchik Alaska and draws roughly seven thousand festivalgoers. This year’s lineup includes Emmylou Harris, The Motet, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Marchforth Marching Band, Dirty River Ramblers and many others.
Go to the Salmonfest website for tickets and more information.
Please check back in for new articles, action alerts, photos and videos that will be continue to be a part of this evolving website and be sure to like us on facebook. If you’d like to get involved or become a member go to the Membership/Donation page or contact us by phone or email.
In the words of Wendell Berry, “We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.”
Thank you for visiting our site, we hope you enjoy it.