The Future is Now: Climate Change Detection, Attribution and Adaptation in Alaska

Alaska’s climate has warmed about 4 degrees F since the 1950’s and 7 degrees F in the interior during winter. The state experienced a 30% average increase in precipitation between 1968 and 1990. The growing season has lengthened by two weeks. Sea ice has retreated by 14% since 1978 and thinned by 60% since the 1960s with widespread effects on marine ecosystems, coastal climate, and human settlements. Permafrost melting has caused erosion, landslides and damaged infrastructure in central and southern Alaska. Recent warming has been accompanied by “unprecedented increases in forest disturbances, including insect attacks. A sustained infestation of spruce bark beetles, which in the past have been limited by cold, has caused widespread tree deaths over 2.3 million acres on the Kenai Peninsula since 1992, the largest loss to insects ever recorded in North America” (US Global Change Research Program, National Assessment, 2001).

Research Questions
Have decision-makers at the individual, group and institutional levels detected these changes? Do they attribute them to global climate change? How are they incorporating climate change into their current decision-making? What mitigation and adaptation measures are these decision-makers taking or considering to respond to these locally and regionally-specific impacts and how are they making these decisions?

Phase I: Interviews with key stakeholders (summer, 2005)
Phase II: Representative state-wide survey (May - June, 2006)
Phase III: Northwest Alaska Regional Climate Summit (May, 2006)
Phase IV: Media content analysis (ongoing)


Leiserowitz, A. (2006) Alaskan opinions on global warming. Report No. 06-10, Eugene, OR: Decision Research.

Gregory, R., Failing, L., and Leiserowitz, A. (2006) Climate change impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptation in Northwest Alaska. Report No. 06-11, Eugene, OR: Decision Research.