This Thursday, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly will consider a resolution to form a Climate Change Task Force. This group would work to identify any effects that the borough is likely to face in a warming climate and develop an appropriate “plan which includes actions allowable by a second-class borough to address climate change impacts on the Fairbanks North Star Borough.”
This is an important step for Fairbanks. The communities of Anchorage, Juneau, Homer and Sitka already have plans in place documenting the expected needs to deal with road maintenance, energy infrastructure and services to the public in a warming Alaska. The symptoms of a warming Alaska are all around us; we don’t need scientists anymore to predict that climate change is coming. Here in Fairbanks we now enjoy fewer and shorter deep-cold spells in winter and earlier garden planting in spring. We also now hear that salmon in the Kuskokwim River are having heart attacks because the water is too hot. Whales and seabirds in the Bering Sea are dying in large numbers. My car was totaled and my collarbone broken when I was T-boned during a January rain that iced the roads. My injuries were minimal because I had my seat belt on. We have not yet buckled our “seat belts” for climate change.
The Fairbanks Task Force would do well to consider following an approach taken by a group started in Great Britain, which has three very simple demands of their politicians:
1. Tell the truth.
2. Act now.
3. Beyond politics.
The work of the Climate Change Task Force can address all three of these critical demands.
• Tell the truth — People, including politicians, are being manipulated by money spent by the fossil fuel industry and other aspects of our existing economy. We need to know the truth and not hide from it. The Climate Change Task Force will help present the current climate situation to the people of Fairbanks and help us understand how we are affecting the climate and how its changes are and will affect us. As the resolution states, climate change presents opportunities as well as risks: “Efforts to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change impacts are likely to benefit FNSB residents through cost savings, stable energy prices, steady jobs and local revenues, social equity, improved air quality, better public health outcomes.”
• Act now — We can take this small step, which will help prepare our community to meet the challenges ahead and identify further positive steps we can take.
• Beyond politics — This third demand is for politicians to step out of the way and let people address climate change in the most flexible, creative ways they can. In Britain, they are demanding a citizens assembly to fairly represent all sectors willing to tackle climate change and present a viable course of action to follow. The Fairbanks Climate Change Task Force will be just this type of group — local people looking at our local situation and figuring out what we can do locally.
Confronting the seemingly overwhelming challenge of climate change with creative, constructive ideas and new visions for the future is what we need. The recent 50th anniversary of humans walking on the surface of the moon reminds us of how much we are capable of.
I am grateful for all the work people have done in putting together this resolution, and I look forward to seeing the ideas that are generated for positively engaging with the Earth that sustains us.
I encourage the Borough Assembly to enthusiastically support the resolution to create a Climate Change Task Force, and I encourage all of you out in the community who read our local newspaper to let the Borough Assembly know that you support the resolution.
Martha Raynolds is a biologist living in Fairbanks.