In some ways, Alaska is ground zero for climate change, said Daniel Grossman, award-winning climate change journalist.
In an interview Friday, Grossman told the Empire that the state’s thousands of miles of coastline and its far northern reaches mean the effects of a warming planet will be felt quickly and in especially pronounced ways.
“The Arctic is warming a couple of times faster than the rest of the globe, so Alaska has more to be concerned about than the rest of us,” Grossman said. “I think the decline in the sea ice is going to have far-reaching effects. Not just on the coast. Far away from the coast in Alaska and elsewhere.”
Grossman is visiting Alaska for a lecture he will deliver Monday evening at Juneau Arts & Culture Center as part of climate change-focused activities organized by environmental nonprofit 350 Juneau. The presentation and a Tuesday rally are meant to coincide with an international meeting of sovereign wealth funds hosted by the Alaska Permanent Fund.
While in Alaska, Grossman said he plans to visit Prince of Wales to report on logging in the Tongass National Forest. Grossman said he tries to make all of his trips have at least two purposes since flying is one of the least environmentally friendly things people can do.
He said one cross-country round trip produces “a couple of times” more carbon than a resident of India produces in a year.
Aside from cutting back on flying, Grossman said electric vehicles, using less heating and air conditioning and switching to LED light bulbs are some other positive things people can do.
However, he ultimately said climate change will need to be addressed through policy.
“We’re going to have to be forced to do these things,” Grossman said. “Psychologically, people like things that are fair. They’re not saving the planet, why should I be saving the planet? If we’re all being forced to save the planet, we’ll all feel OK about it.”
Grossman said humanity is almost out of time to slow the progress of warming sufficiently so that it does not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius since industrialization — we’re currently about 1 degree warmer since industrialization. That 1.5-degree mark is generally considered the “danger line” for global warming.
Plus, since warming is gradual, Grossman said at some point a method will need to be devised for removing carbon from the air. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air is at a level not seen for 3 million years, and if left alone, it will eventually produce a climate like the one that existed on Earth millions of years ago, Grossman said.
However, Grossman said he has noticed at least one positive climate change development.
“I think it’s absolutely amazing that the Democrats are having debates about climate change, ” Grossman said. “All of a sudden for some reason or another, we’ve reached a bit of a tipping point on the appreciation of the issue. It’s become a policy issue that’s gaining wide attention. That’s super positive. It’s coming late, but it’s happening.”