Scientist gives legislative testimony on Alaska climate

International Arctic Research Center climate scientist, Brian Brettschneider, testified to the Alaska State Legislature House Resource Committee in Juneau last week. The January 24 testimony on Alaska’s changing climate was heard along with a resolution establishing a special committee on climate change.

“Climate change is here; greenhouse gas emissions are largely responsible, and Alaska’s people and economy are affected” said Brettschneider. His presentation outlined the connection between climate and nearly everything we see in Alaska from wetlands and tundra to caribou and salmon. “We depend on having a stable climate to make sure that our system functions in the way that they always have,” he said. 

Brettschneider shared how 2019 was the warmest year on record for Alaska, yet January 2020 is coldest month we’ve seen in eight years. “We can have cold times in a warm period,” he said. “However, in the past this type of cold snap would happen every two or three years, now it happens every eight or ten.”

This trend is happening around the globe, but Alaska is experiencing more dramatic warming because we have more ice and snow. These white surfaces reflect solar heat back to space. As Alaska warms the snow and ice melt and there are more dark land and water surfaces to absorb heat. As more heat is absorbed, more ice and snow melt creating a feedback cycle.

At this point in Brettschneider’s testimony he transitioned into what causes global warming, and what natural phenomena aren’t substantial contributors, like solar cycles or volcanic eruptions. “The science is really straightforward, it’s about the greenhouse gases and everything else is really just noise,” he said.

Looking forward Brettschneider said we can expect more of the same, “the future of Alaska is warmer, there is no way around it.”

What are Alaskans doing about their warming climate? Brettschneider described a suite of activity at the community level such as climate action planning in Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks’s. He also gave examples of how the Arctic country of Norway is finding ways to be both a production country and a leader in climate policy. Looking to their example, Brettschneider said, “we don’t have to make a choice, we can do both.”

Watch the testimony here.