Commentary: Walker’s Climate Committee is a campaign gimmick

As Gov. Bill Walker’s Climate Action Leadership Group (CALG) is releasing its final report/recommendations shortly Alaskans should not be fooled into thinking this is new or significant. It isn’t. Alaska has already had many committees and reports on what to do on climate change, but simply doesn’t do it for political reasons. The CALG process is yet another delay tactic and reporting of the process needs to get it right, so as not to further enable the outrageous lack of state action on the issue.

To fully understand the issue, it is critical to place Walker’s CALG effort in the broader context of many years of inaction on the issue by the state of Alaska. Given the draft from Walker’s CALG last spring, the final report is almost certain to be mostly a rehash of the many preexisting state reports, including the existing 2010 Alaska Climate Change Strategy (attached below), all of which the Walker administration has entirely ignored.

Many Alaskans have pressed this (and former) administrations to take specific action on climate change, including legislative and executive action. And while Gov. Sarah Palin took some initiative, Gov. Sean Parnell and the Walker/Mallott administration have done virtually nothing on the issue.

Alaskans pressed Walker/Mallott for support for an Alaska Climate Change Response Act (proposed to all legislators for the past five years), to advocate aggressive emissions reduction efforts nationally and globally, etc., and to establish an Alaska Climate Change Fund derived from a nominal oil tax (as is our oil spill fund), to cover the mounting costs of climate adaptation in western and northern Alaska communities. But Walker ignored the request.

In fact, until they filed for reelection last year, Walker/Mallott hardly mentioned the term “climate change.” Then, after filing for reelection, in a desperate act of political pandering, they formed yet another committee in order to appear responsive to the issue. That now his last-minute climate committee is releasing its report only a few weeks prior to the Nov. election, wreaks of a simple campaign gimmick.

My earlier comments on this here:

https://www.juneauempire.com/opinion/governors-new-climate-committee-is-political-cover-for-his-inaction/

 

Thus, for any considering the current CALG report, some questions to consider asking the governor’s office and CALG are as follow:

  1. How does this report and its recommendations differ from the already existing 2010 Alaska Climate Action Strategy, the Legislature’s Alaska Climate Impact Assessment Commission (2008), and the several 2009 state climate reports?

2009 Climate Change Advisory Group Reports

Adaptation Advisory Group Draft Final Report

Mitigation Advisory Group Final Report

Immediate Action Work Group Final Report (PDF)

Research Needs Work Group Draft Final Report (PDF)

These have all been ignored by the Parnell and Walker administrations.  Now, the Walker administration is issuing its own report (less than two months before the election), which says pretty much the same thing as the previous many reports, yet still taking no action whatsoever. It is a truly outrageous sleight-of-hand.

  1. Does Walker’s CALG report recommend specific actions needed in this next legislative session (e.g. proposed legislation), or specific executive actions needed immediately (the draft certainly didn’t)?  Does it recommend a carbon tax or an Alaska climate change response funding mechanism?
  2. Why did the Governor ignore repeated requests throughout his term to act, and only after he filed for reelection took minimal action by establishing yet another committee?
  3. Does the report ignore necessary actions the state must aggressively pursue on the national and international stage, such as reviving the now-scuttled federal Clean Power Plan, a national carbon tax, greater regulation of carbon emissions, etc.? Walker has done nothing to press these issues.
  4. Does the report ignore the need for Alaska to join the interregional, intergovernmental climate initiative of the Pacific Coast Collaborative?

Again, it is critical to accurately report Walker’s CALG process, not simply its recommendations, but in the broad context of inaction by the State of Alaska under Parnell and Walker, and several legislatures. We are out of time on climate change, and approaching a climate tipping point, beyond which we consign future generations to climate and economic disaster.Yet Alaska continues to pretend it is concerned, without taking action. Despite the laudable members of Walker’s CALG, the last thing we need at this point is more feel-good process without specific action.

Unless and until the Walker administration supports a carbon tax in Alaska (as the BC and California governments, and 70 other governments around the world have done), nationally, and in all governments globally, it isn’t serious about addressing the issue. Unless and until the Walker administration advocates revival of the Clean Power Plan and the U.S. rejoining and strengthening the Paris accord, it isn’t serious on the issue. A primary focus of the State of Alaska should be to advocate a steep reduction in global carbon emissions, and the CALG process essentially avoids that issue. And unless and until the Walker administration advocates establishment of a Climate Response Fund to help rural communities with costs in adapting to climate change, it isn’t serious about this issue.

Please try not to fall for Walker’s PR trickery on this issue, and report the issue with balance and fairness to all sides, raising the legitimate concerns of Alaskans.

 

Rick Steiner, of Oasis Earth, www.oasis-earth.com, was a marine conservation professor with the University of Alaska in Kotzebue, Prince William Sound and Anchorage, including residency in Cordova from 1983-1997.