Climate change adaptation in Alaska: Science, planning, and action

Average annual and seasonal warming in Alaska and the Arctic has been documented at a rate far greater than other parts of the planet. There is a growing literature on climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation, however to date very few studies have documented actions and activities on the ground in response to climate change in the U.S.A.

This paper reported the results of a multi-sectoral synthesis of climate adaptation in Alaska. We engaged semi-structured interviews with key informants in conjunction with document analysis and literature review.

Our investigation revealed three major categories of response to environmental change in Alaska:

  • community and institutional strategic planning and related funding mechanisms
  • research and monitoring of environmental variables
  • on-the-ground actions such as community re-location.

This synthesis reveals that adaptive actions and activities are often initiated and motivated in response to immediate environmental conditions rather than as implementation of pre-meditated, deliberate or planned adaptations to climate change per se.

In addition, people, communities, and governments are responding to climate impacts as part of an assemblage of many different environmental and social changes, which may or may not be definitively linked to climate change.

This work revealed that, while planning and monitoring can occur at the state-wide or regional level, adaptation actions occur most notably at the local scale.