Climate change is rapidly shifting the way many Alaskans live. The state is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the country. In many places, it’s altering the landscape and making the weather more unpredictable.
We want to know how you’re thinking about it.
Have you noticed changes to the land and weather where you live? Has it changed your daily life? Are you hopeful about Alaska’s future?
These are questions we’ll be exploring over the coming months at Alaska Public Media, and we want to hear from you, our readers and listeners.
At the recent convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives in Anchorage, I walked the floors of the Dena’ina Center polling Alaskans around the state for a highly unscientific survey.
I started by asking attendees: How often do you think about climate change?
The answer, from mostly rural Alaskans was: a lot.
Vincent Beans, 73, is a fisherman from Mountain Village on the Yukon River. He said the weather in his region has become more unpredictable.
“We used to be able to predict the weather just by looking at the skies and the land,” Beans said. “But it doesn’t happen that way [anymore]. It can just go totally opposite.”
Rose Titus, 69, agreed. She’s originally from Council, a village 60 miles northeast of Nome, and now lives in White Mountain.
“It was colder before, now it’s warmer,” Titus said.
By the start of October, the Niukluk River which runs past Council and White Mountain should be frozen, Titus said. But that’s not a guarantee anymore.
“It’s frozen right now,” she said. “But it’s way late.”
Climate change is reshaping daily life, Titus said. Salmon runs across much of Western Alaska have declined, limiting subsistence fishing. Researchers say the decline is driven by a variety of factors linked to climate change.
“I think about it all the time,” Titus said, “Because I haven’t cut salmon for three years now.”
Changes to fisheries is a concern all over Alaska, attendees told me.
“The impact on our fisheries is probably the most significant,” said Jaeleen Kookesh, vice president of policy and legal affairs at Sealaska, the Southeast regional Native Corporation. Kookesh is originally from Angoon, and she said she frequently hears concerns about the region’s salmon and halibut fisheries from Southeast residents.
Delores Gregory is from Unalaska. She also worries about the future of the fishing industry, and how it will cope with impacts not just from climate change, but also ocean acidification.
But despite her worries, Gregory said she’s hopeful for the future — in part because she thinks more Alaskans are now paying attention to the issue, especially younger Alaskans.
“I’m excited to see how engaged the youth are, and how many of them look at climate change as a fact, and want to do something to change it,” Gregory said, adding that she’d heard more about climate change at this AFN convention than ever before.
Vincent Beans, from Mountain Village said he’s hopeful for the future, too: “You have to be,” he said.
But, like many Alaskans, he’s also grieving what’s already being lost.
“I wish the younger generation would have seen what we had,” Beans said. “The fish and animals, the plentiful abundance of the land and sea.”
We want to hear from you! Do you have questions about climate change? Are you seeing changes to the land or weather in your daily life? How do you think about Alaska’s future?
Fill out this short survey or email Alaska Public Media climate reporter Kavitha George at firstname.lastname@example.org.