Environmental Programs

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is chiefly responsible for responding to environmental issues that affect global warming and climate change in Alaska. The Division of Air Quality, the Division of Environmental Health, the Division of Information and Administrative Services, the Division of Spill Prevention and Response, and the Division of Water are all sub-branches of ADEC. The Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Natural Resources also have environmental obligations.

In the fall of 2007, Governor Sarah Palin created the Climate Change Sub-Cabinet by executive order and charged the group with consolidating existing knowledge on climate change and making recommendations for policy and initiatives designed to reverse climate change trends that are already evident in Alaska. Three workgroups have been set up to pursue the goals of the Sub-Cabinet: Immediate Action, Alternative Energy Conservation, and Research Needs. The Sub-Cabinet is made up of department commissioners from Commerce, Community and

Economic Development, Natural Resources, Fish and Game, Transportation and Public Facilities, and Environmental Conservation.

The group was requested to work with the University of Alaska to investigate the development of renewable energies, including geothermal, wind, hydroelectric, and tidal resources. The Climate Change Sub-Cabinet cooperates with the Joint Alaska Climate Impact Assessment Commission set up by the legislature, Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), and the University of Alaska's Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy. Alaska has observer status at the Western Climate Initiative, which the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington established in February 2007, to develop regional responses to climate change.

Because the population of Alaska is widely scattered and travel is often difficult, the needs of rural Alaskans are different from those of larger, more populated areas. A number of programs, such as RurAL CAP, have been established to meet these distinct needs. Alaska Environmental Resource Hub Online serves as an interactive environmental educational tool and provides a forum for addressing issues that include compliance, solid waste management, air quality, environmental justice, and health. RurAL CAP works closely with the local Indian General Assistance Program. The Alaska Village Indoor Air Quality Program provides education on environmental issues in rural communities and advises Alaskans on reducing exposure to domestic hazardous waste, installing carbon monoxide alarm systems, and using non-toxic green cleaning kits. RurAL CAP and RAVEN AmeriCorps members use the Savin Raven Game to teach children about environmental issues.

There are a number of other programs designed to protect Alaska's environment and slow the progress of climate change in the state. For instance, the Alaska Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program samples coastal and fresh waters to maintain clean water and protect vulnerable ecosystems. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program serves the Alaskan agricultural sector by promoting voluntary conservation and offering financial and technical help to enable farmers to meet national guidelines for responsible agricultural practices.

Grassroots groups are also an essential element in pursing environmental policies designed to mitigate the effects of global warming and climate change.

Citizens' groups include Alaska Action Center, Alaska Boreal Forest Council, Alaska Center for the Environment, Alaska Clean Water Alliance, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Alaska Conservation Foundation, Alaska Forum for Environmental Responsibility, Alaska Friends of the Earth, Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Alaska Natural Heritage Program, Alaska Rainforest Campaign, and Alaska Wilderness League.

sEE ALso: Alaska Climate Research Center; Arctic Ocean; Oil, Production of.

BIBHoGRAPHY. Alaska, www.state.ak.us (cited September 2007); Seth Borenstein, "Blame Coal," Associated Press (June 2, 2007); Ned Rozell, "The Ups and Downs of Life on Frozen Ground," Alaska Science Forum (June 2, 1999).

Elizabeth R. Purdy Independent Scholar

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