New report outlines Juneau’s climate future, and what the city can do about it

The exterior of a house being flooded
Several homes along Jordan Creek are partially inundated by rising water on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, after record rainfall in Juneau, Alaska. (Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

In Juneau, precipitation has already increased by 20 inches a year in the last century and will continue to rise. Ocean warming will stress local marine ecosystems. More landslides will happen as the region gets warmer and wetter.

These are just a few of the takeaways from a Juneau-specific climate report released Monday by the University of Alaska Southeast’s Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center.

The report says it’s important that the City and Borough of Juneau already has plans in place to combat climate change, but it must make good on them and then go even further in its efforts.

“There are two messages: One, there are many impacts. Two, we are doing something about it. For a small community, that’s pretty impressive,” said Jim Powell, a UAS research professor and the lead author of the study.

Powell said the findings come with ideas for solutions that are within our reach on a local level.

“When polarization is occurring on the national side and the state side, local governments are making it happen,” Powell said. ”We’re looking at the impacts as well as the things we can do and things that we’ve done.”

The city’s already taken some steps to address climate change. In 2001, Juneau was the first port in the world to connect cruise ships to hydropower — and it’s considering expanding that program from one dock to three.

The study recommends going even further than that: investing in 100% shore power for all cruise ships, limiting the number of ships in port to five, and monitoring ship emissions while in port.

Powell praised the city for setting a goal to have 80% renewable energy by 2045 and for having a climate action plan in place. But the study recommends the municipality go further by creating metrics to report progress on its goals to the public.

“If you don’t have indicators, you can’t manage. If you don’t have goals, you can’t manage,” Powell said.

The study was made possible by volunteer effort from more than two dozen Alaska scientists, the majority of whom are local to Juneau. Funding came from CBJ and the Department of Interior’s Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center, which is managed by the USGS National Climate Adaptation Center

Some study authors will host a webinar about their work at 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 14.

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