Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen.
Al Gore’s new film, An Inconvenient Truth, which finally hits theatersthis week, makes the case with devastating clarity: globalwarming is not a distant threat, but an immediate crisis alreadyunderway.
In Alaska, one of the frontlines of the climate crisis, residents areincreasingly feeling the heat. According to Deborah Williams of AlaskaConservation solutions, Alaska’s annual temperatures have increased3 to 5 degrees and its winter temperatures have skyrocketed by 7 to 10degrees. In the past two years, Alaska has seen record-breaking levelsof ice melting and glacier retreating. “In other words, we are themelting tip of the iceberg,” says Williams. “Or, better yet, we arethe Paul Reveres of global warming – ‘Take action: the BTUs arecoming.'”
And now, thanks largely to Williams’ painstaking efforts, Alaska isofficially taking on the Revere role in the fight against globalwarming. On May 9, the Alaskan legislature passed HR30, which createsa commission to analyze and assess the impacts of climate change onAlaska, and develop preventative measures for Alaskan governments andcommunities–as well as the federal government–to implement. Thecreation of the eleven-person Alaska Climate Impact AssessmentCommission (four elected officials and seven appointed environmentalexperts) garnered unanimous support in both houses, despite thestrongly conservative climate of Alaskan politics.
“The Commission’s findings [which will be released next March] will bea critical part of the national wake-up call,” says Williams. “Thisdemonstrates that even a predominantly conservative legislature cancome together, unanimously, and agree to address one of the greatestthreats we are facing: global fever.”
The bill was championed by Representative Reggie Joule and SenatorDonnie Olson, both of Western Alaska, where communities are beinghardest hit by melting glaciers and rising temperatures. Williams’organization, Alaska Conservation Solutions, worked with a broadcoalition including the Alaska Conservation Voters, the AlaskaConservation Foundation, Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, andprofessors from the University of Alaska.
“If the legislature in Alaska can embrace the need to tackle globalwarming,” says Williams, “then advocates in every state should feelemboldened to ask their legislatures to do the same.”
Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker, contributes to The Nation’s new blog, The Notion, and co-writes Sweet Victories with Katrina vanden Heuvel.