The White House has released the latest National Climate Assessment report, with focus placed on Alaska and the Arctic as areas of particular concern with regard to rising sea levels, increased forest fires and thawing permafrost, among others.
“Residents of Alaska are on the front lines of climate change. Crumbling buildings, roads, and bridges and eroding shorelines are commonplace,” the report reads.
According to the report, released last week, annual average near-surface air temperatures across Alaska and the Arctic have increased over the last 50 years at a rate more than twice as fast as the global average temperature.
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is currently out of the country and was unable to be reached for comment. However, the governor’s office reiterated Walker’s commitment to addressing climate change in Alaska and the Arctic through his recent administrative order creating the Climate Change Strategy and Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team.
The national climate report pointed toward human activity as the central player in increased climate change in recent years, a conclusion that contradicts actions from the White House since President Donald Trump’s election last November, including the decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, place focus on fossil fuel production and roll back Obama-era EPA regulations and climate policies.
“It is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the report reads.
The report states that oceans are a significant area of concern, especially for regions like Alaska, which has more coastline than any other state. The water is getting warmer, more acidic and seeing a drop in oxygen levels, the report reads.
As ocean levels rise, Alaska communities such as Shishmaref are experiencing drastic erosion, threatening homes and infrastructure as coastlines recede.
The report also identified rising numbers of wildfires in the Western United States and Alaska, with numbers projected to continue rising as the climate continues to warm.
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has historically tried to balance a response to Arctic climate change with what she sees as the need for resource development.
“I think for anybody who has spent any time in Alaska, there is an awareness that we all have that we are seeing the impacts of climate change perhaps more readily than in other parts of the country because of our Arctic environment,” Murkowski recently told the New York Times. “But we’re also a place where we recognize that in order to stay warm, we have to have a resource that can keep us warm, and oil has been a mainstay for us. We’ve provided it to the country and that has allowed for jobs and revenues, it has allowed for schools and roads and institutions that everybody else around the country enjoys.”
Murkowski could not be reached for comment on the climate report.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have repeatedly said carbon dioxide isn’t the primary contributor to global warming.
It’s “extremely likely” — meaning with 95 to 100 percent certainty — that global warming is man-made, mostly from carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, scientists involved in the report concluded.
“Over the last century, there are no convincing alternative explanations,” the report said.
The report follows an announcement from Trump in June stating that he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement unless he can get a better deal for the country. The agreement would have held the U.S to its previous pledge to cut overall greenhouse-gas emissions between 26 percent and 28 percent by 2025.
The 477-page report released Friday is one of two scientific assessments required every four years.