UAF experts co-author national climate assessment
Climate change will have far-reaching consequences to the people of Alaska, according to the fifth National Climate Assessment, a report from the U.S. government released last week.
Five experts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks were among the authors of the Alaska chapter of the assessment, which goes beyond documented ecosystem changes to focus on societal implications of climate change.
Climate change exacerbates disparities in access to healthcare, especially among Alaska Native and rural residents. Communities are also navigating compounding stressors. For example, people are facing challenges like declining salmon populations while also managing damage to infrastructure from coastal erosion or permafrost thaw.
According to the report, adaptation will be costly, and will require increased capacity and strong collaboration across agencies and tribes.
“I’m pleased that the report provides a picture of climate adaptation planning in Alaska and the challenges and barriers communities have in adopting and implementing these plans,” said co-author Adelheid Herrmann, a postdoctoral researcher at the UAF Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy. “Communities face new threats of potential loss of life, lifestyle, livelihoods, food security, clean air and water.”
The focus on people required a diverse group of co-authors. Each brought unique connections to communities, as well as a wide range of professional and on-the-ground experience.
“We prioritized describing the changes that people are already seeing or will see in the future —such as changing population size and/or geographic distribution of fish species—and how that might affect Alaskans’ livelihoods,” said Danielle Meeker, a sustained assessment specialist with ACCAP. “I believe that this approach aligns better with how many Alaskans are thinking about climate change, based on their own experiences.”
National climate assessments are mandated by Congress through the 1990 Global Change Research Act. The assessments describe climate changes and their causes, project future conditions, and evaluate adaptation and mitigation options for employment sectors like commercial fishing, tourism and more. To learn more about the assessment, read the seven key Alaska messages or attend an ACCAP webinar on Dec. 5 at 11 a.m.
Herrmann and Meeker were joined by three other UAF-affiliated experts: Sarah Trainor, Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy; Jeremy Littell, Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center; and Jeff Falke, Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.