Leg With Louie: Alaska legislature and 415 parts per million

The Earth’s atmosphere is reported, as of May 12, 2019, to contain 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, primarily from human activities. 415 ppm is a number unknown to humans. The news that humanity is killing itself off by way of petroleum use is not new news; hitting 415 ppm is an ominous benchmark and it demonstrates the speed at which CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere. The first annual measurements of atmospheric CO2 were made at the Scripps laboratory on Hawaii’s Mt. Mauna Loa in 1958 - the year that the Alaska Statehood Act was signed. At the time of our statehood, the atmospheric carbon was measured at 316 ppm. Since then, we have flown through CO2 benchmarks. At current rates of CO2 accumulation, humans are expected to hit 500 ppm in the next 50 years.

Our concerns today, and predictions, and efforts to mitigate impacts will likely seem quaint to our children as they grapple with the next phase of climate change - mass migrations, food and water shortage, drought, deadly heat, disease, wildfires, sea-level rise at a speed without precedent in global history.

What we will not, or should not, be forgiven is our inaction. In repealing the administrative order that created a Climate Action Leadership Team for Alaska - Governor Dunleavy committed an act that will be judged in a few generations as one of the dumbest moves in the history of Alaska. To be fair, Dunleavy’s advisor, former Gov. Sean Parnell scuttled a climate action planning effort. That was dumb also.

The Alaska State Legislature is summoned into a special session this week to discuss crime, permanent fund, and budget. It would do well to consider what a number like 415 ppm portends for the state budget, and for our Permanent Fund, and for Crime in Alaska. We can speculate that climate change will be expensive, will substantially disrupt global markets, and will lead to a more violent world.

The State Legislature had an entire legislative session to form a response to the most aggressive threat to the viability of Alaska as a state. In response to terrifying increases in atmospheric carbon, lawmakers could have passed a Carbon Tax, a Renewable Portfolio Standard, banned future coal leasing, increased the petroleum production tax so we might increase funding for renewable energy, increased the motor fuels tax, crafted land and water protections to ensure some natural resiliency in Alaska. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

Lawmakers aren’t going to take action unless they bear some pressure from those they represent. Dunleavy isn’t going to do anything unless he is called on to sign or veto legislation relating to climate change. It is up to you, to us, the represented, to decide if a response to 415 ppm is worthy of even mentioning to our representatives. Ask your kids what you should do.


Louie Flora
Government Affairs Director

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