Climate Change Threatens Alaska

Jax Hudur

Scientists claim Alaska is ground zero for climate change Sea Ice Diminishing in a Warmer Climate as sea ice is shrinking and becoming thinner and smaller

America’s last frontier, the State of Alaska, is the largest U.S. state by area. It’s bigger than the total combination of Texas, California and Montana put together. While Alaska is the most sparsely populated State, the State enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in the country despite Alaska being a small economy. This is owed to the diverse economy headed by oil, fishing, and natural. More than half of Alaska is federally owned land (65 %), including parks, national forests, and wildlife, although the U.S. armed forces bases and tourism play a huge part in the State’s economy.

Scientists have dubbed Alaska as the ground zero of climate change. On the ground, Alaskans have seen changes happening, as in the case of spring coming earlier. However, data shows that the average annual temperature in Alaska has risen more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas the average winter temperature has seen a rise of 6 degrees Fahrenheit. This translates to earlier spring snow melts, drier landscapes, and even wildfires, at times breaking heat records. Because of the ice and snow melting too soon, plant life is drying out, which acts as fuel for the wildfires. It’s an ecosystem where everything is related, an ecosystem under threat due to the current climate change taking place. An aerial view from a drone shows the village of Kivalina, Alaska.

Climate change is a serious matter that governments seem to ignore. This is partly because fighting against climate change comes with a hefty price tag in terms of dollars and will put restrictions on the economy. However short-sighted current political elites’ lax attitude to climate change is, the result can be catastrophic and may destroy priceless natural ecosystems, especially in places like Alaska.

A good indication of how climate change affects Alaska beyond scientific numbers is the real-life changes taking place currently in Alaska’s wild. The polar bears, which are currently listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services because of the ongoing and predicted decline in sea ice due to climate change, have affected the habitat of the polar bears. As a result, they have been moving inland, coming into contact with grizzly bears. The result being the two species mating and producing hybrid “pizzly” bears. Climate change has also made it possible for grizzly bears to expand their habitat.

 Dr. Larissa Desantis, a paleontologist and associate professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University, said,

“Polar bears are so specialized on hunting seals that they may have a harder time adapting to the warming Arctic. The shift to eating hard foods in a handful of bears in the 21st century is also concerning. Polar bears may be reaching a tipping point and may now be forced to consume less-preferred foods.”

Scientists have been warning about hybridization caused by climate change as the threat it poses affects the existing biodiversity of ecosystems as it could lead to the loss or replacement of present species. The pizzly bears of Alaska may be the first indication of such a change in line with the warnings of scientists and climate change activists. Pizzly bear, natures way of coping with Climate Change

Young Alaskans are bringing awareness to their leaders as they fear climate change will undoubtedly change their way of life. Seventeen-year-old Quannah Chasing told delegates in the 2019 convention,

“We do not want to stop our ways of life. That’s why we’re here. We shouldn’t have to tell people in charge that we want to survive. It should be our number-one right. We should not have to fight for this.”

Another teenager, 15-year-old Nanieezh Peter, also encouraged voters to take action on climate change as it affects not only Alaska but Alaska’s native people as well.

Nationally, then President Trump downplayed climate change effects as he said,

“ We must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.”

While mocking climate change, Trump also tweeted,

“ It’s freezing in New York- where the hell is global warming.”

Under President Trump, the U.S. ended up withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement. The Paris agreement aimed to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, which translates to about 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit and pursuing efforts to limit temperature increases further to 1.5 degrees Celcius (34.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Trump on Climate Change

Late January 2020, when President Biden came to power, in one of his flurry executive orders, was a return to the Paris agreement, merely hours after being sworn in. Unless responsible leaders take bold steps, I am afraid Alaska’s pizzly bears will be here to stay, and who knows, maybe the State’s entire way of life will be changed.

Accordingly, perhaps prophets of doom are precisely what is needed to amplify the scientists’ warnings in this fight against climate change. Alaskans, what do you think?

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I write about history, politics, and true crime. Not to mention anything else that takes my fancy or is newsworthy.


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