Back To State Adaptation Overview
Local Support Overview
 

Summary of State Agency Action

Published in 2010, Alaska’s Climate Change Strategy (Strategy) contains 158 discrete goals related to climate change adaptation, including action items and research needs. The Strategy includes many goals related to infrastructure, biodiversity, and public health sectors and more generalized goals focused on improving research, monitoring, and modeling efforts relating to climate change. This page describes some of the progress Alaska state agencies are making related to goals in each of these sectors.

Agriculture

Alaska’s 2010 Strategy includes recommendations affecting the agricultural sector, such as encouraging community-based agriculture, developing a strategic locally-driven food policy, and researching agricultural needs in the context of a changing climate — including effects relating to invasive species.

Some progress has been made towards goals in the agricultural sector, particularly goals aimed at increasing availability and awareness of locally-grown food, although in many cases these actions are not tied specifically to climate change. For example, the Alaska Grown Program helps increase awareness and support for local agriculture by highlighting products fully grown (or for processed products, at least 75% grown) in Alaska, to help market these products. In 2012, the State initiated an Alaska Grown Restaurant Rewards Program, funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, that provided an incentive to restaurants to buy and use Alaska Grown products. Alaska also organizes an annual Farm to School Challenge, encouraging student, educator, and community engagement around local agriculture. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Subsistence Division has also administered surveys and conducted research with other state and university partners to understand food security needs and changing subsistence use patterns in rural communities.

Biodiversity

Many of the goals in Alaska’s Strategy relating to biodiversity aim to understand climate change impacts on species and habitats, evaluate needed changes in policies and regulations to account for climate change, explore adaptive management improvements for managing wildlife, and reduce the spread of invasive species.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) has taken steps to account for climate change impacts to wildlife and habitats. ADF&G completed a study in September 2010, The Effects of a Changing Climate on Key Habitats in Alaska, identifying the impacts of climate change on habitats and species in Alaska and related monitoring and research needs. Also in 2010, ADF&G developed a Climate Change Strategy for the agency, which details effects of climate change on the State’s fish and wildlife, as well as on uses (subsistence or otherwise) of fish and wildlife, and provides management principles, key strategies, and implementation actions. The Alaska Wildlife Action Plan, developed in 2015, identifies climate change as the "preeminent threat to wildlife and their habitat in Alaska."

In promoting an adaptive management approach, ADF&G Division of Wildlife Conservation developed an Intensive Management Protocol in December 2011, which is based on principles of adaptive management and managing for sustainability.

 

Coasts & Oceans

Alaska’s Strategy recommends a range of actions to address coastal threats across the State, such as by improving mapping, modeling, and monitoring of sea-level change, ice change, coastal erosion, and other climate-change related impacts; and by helping communities adapt to flooding and erosion — including by providing relocation assistance.

The Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys (DGGS, within the Department of Natural Resources) is working to modernize coastal monitoring and modeling efforts relating to flooding and erosion, and the effects of sea-level rise, permafrost thaw, ocean ice, and storm surge. Data and analysis by DGGS feed into online tools that provide information about coastal hazards, including the Alaska Shoreline Change Tool, which allows users to visualize shoreline position changes over time and future predicted shoreline position. DGGS aims to provide information that can help communities with climate change adaptation planning, infrastructure siting, and other decisions affected by climate impacts.

The Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA), in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, oversees additional efforts to provide flood hazard information, risk assessment, and planning support through the Alaska Risk Mapping, Assessment, and Planning (Risk MAP) Program. The State also provides resources and workshops to support community resilience, with a particular focus on the highest-risk Alaska Native villages along the coast.

Forestry

Many of the forestry-related goals in Alaska’s Strategy relate to improving wildland fire management policy and practices and modeling forest management in light of increasing wildfire risks as a result of climate change. The Strategy also recommends supporting communities in the development of Community Wildfire Protection Plans and coordinating fire management efforts with Canadian counterparts.

Alaska’s Division of Forestry updated the State Forest Action Plan most recently in May 2016, and the plan incorporates climate change adaptation into forestry sector goals. Informed by an Alaska Forest Resource Assessment that identifies key forest management issues, the Action Plan identifies goals and strategies to address forest management challenges affected or exacerbated by climate change, such as managing an expanding wildland-urban interface (and related increases in fire risk), and the need to maintain or improve the ecosystem services provided by forestlands. The Action Plan also recommends adapting forest management to account for climate change, and coordinating relevant response strategies relating to climate adaptation with the efforts of the statewide climate change sub-cabinet (now the Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team).

Infrastructure

Alaska’s Strategy recommends improved understanding and modeling of climate-related threats affecting infrastructure, such as permafrost thaw, flooding, erosion, and other topographic changes. The Strategy also makes recommendations relating to changed design and standards based on the need to adapt infrastructure to changing environmental conditions.

Many of the research efforts by the Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys (DGGS, within the Department of Natural Resources) are intended to help assess potential risks to infrastructure, among other research goals. For example, DGGS is producing color-indexed community elevation maps as part of a pilot project in partnership with the National Weather Service and other Alaska state agencies. These maps will help streamline communications in advance of forecasted storm events that could potentially impact infrastructure and cause flooding. DGGS’s Climate and Cryosphere Hazards Section also conducts research relating to geologic hazards causing physical instability and risk to infrastructure, such as glacier retreat and permafrost thaw, and how these hazards are affected by rising temperatures.

State agencies have also integrated climate change considerations into infrastructure planning efforts. For example, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities discusses how climate change poses risks to roads and other infrastructure in its 2036 Long-Range Transportation Plan and its 2018 Transportation Asset Management Plan. And the Department of Environmental Conservation completed a review in 2015 of landfills and other waste sites for erosion risk, noting that climate change is one of the factors affecting erosion risk to these facilities. The project involved ranking sites and developing action plans for the highest-priority sites.

Public Health & 

Emergency Preparedness

Alaska’s Strategy covers a range of public health goals, such as improving surveillance and data collection relating to vector-, food-, and water-borne diseases that have the potential for higher incidence due to climate change, planning for impacts to sanitation facilities and improving monitoring, and monitoring shifts in subsistence species and vegetation and corresponding community impacts.

In January 2018, the Section of Epidemiology within the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, released a report on the potential public health impacts of climate change in the State. In addition to providing an overview of climate change predictions for Alaska, the report describes a wide range of potential impacts to human health from climate change, recommendations, and examples of adaptation strategies to address potential health impacts. The report discusses potential effects of climate change indicators (e.g., temperature, sea ice, permafrost, etc.) within the context of separate health impact categories: mental health and well-being; hazardous materials exposure; food, nutrition, and subsistence activity; infectious diseases and toxins; non-communicable and chronic diseases (e.g., asthma); water and sanitation; health services and infrastructure capacity; and accidents and injuries.

 

Water

Goals in Alaska’s Strategy relating to water resources emphasize the need for improved hydrologic data and modeling, especially for groundwater, and improving adaptive management approaches for freshwater while addressing concerns of pathogens and contaminants, and water needs for fish and wildlife. The Strategy also recommends revising water management laws, policies, and practices, as necessary, to improve adaptive capacity of freshwater systems.

State agencies have focused on addressing research needs and improving resources and assistance to support resilient community water systems. For example, the Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys (DGGS) in partnership with University of Alaska Fairbanks installed new groundwater monitors in 2017 to help understand the interactions between permafrost changes and groundwater resources, detailed in its 2017 Annual Report. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) produced a stormwater guide in December 2011 that details best management practices, and contains a section with suggestions on how to ensure that stormwater infrastructure is adaptive and can accommodate changes in precipitation and flow resulting from climate change. And in 2010, the State completed an Imperiled Communities Water Resources analysis that identified communities most likely to experience near-term impacts to their water and wastewater infrastructure from climate change.

(Research last updated: July 11, 2018). 

 
 
 
 

Powered by the Georgetown Climate Center's