Climate Change in Alaska: The Challenges of the Pacific Northwest

Climate Change in Alaska: The Challenges of the Pacific Northwest

A single, devastating California fire season wiped out years of efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases, but that effort is far from over, and the future may hold a different set of challenges for California and the nation.

California is still producing record amounts of greenhouse gases, and the state is on track for its highest-ever annualized carbon output. Although the state’s economy is growing, it can’t do so much without new energy sources. And a prolonged stretch of extremely hot weather in September and October is expected to drive up electrical demand.

Many of the state’s energy sources — natural gas, hydroelectricity, nuclear generation, and geothermal energy — are projected to decline in the coming decade, and the state may need to expand its energy grid to accommodate larger energy demands.

One way or another, California has not only to adapt to the challenges it faces, but also to make the transition to a clean energy economy, an undertaking that will require innovation across different sectors.

The climate of the Pacific Northwest — especially the northern part of it — has long been a challenge. For decades, the state of Alaska has been grappling with a climate similar to California’s, with a long but gradual warming that began more than a half-century ago and accelerated since the mid-1970s.

Now, the recent years have been especially tough for the northernmost states. The coldest and driest winter on record, a record high snowpack, and the highest temperature ever recorded in Alaska all occurred this winter. The northernmost regions of the state have suffered record-breaking heat in August, setting records for both the state and the nation.

The impacts of these cold and warm extremes are visible everywhere in Alaska, and they’re also contributing to the state’s projected economic downfall. The combination of a long-term warming trend and harsh winters has left residents facing a combination of low economic productivity, high energy costs, and a loss of homes and businesses.

And it’s not just residents suffering. Alaska’s government recently began looking more seriously at how to cut its reliance on natural gas and move closer to achieving carbon neutrality.

Alaska is not the only place grappling with climate shifts in the northern

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