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Low Carbon Alaska?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 8:45
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Brad Plumer reports that Alaska’s political leaders are crafting plans to reduce the state’s GHG emissions.   The piece does not explain “why” these leaders are taking this action.  The piece names a few coastal parts of the state that are at risk of sea level rise and this could certainly occur.  But, Alaska’s actions have no impact on local sea level rise. Local sea level rise is determined by global GHG emissions.   Free rider logic would predict that the state has no incentive to unilaterally take these actions. Alaska, alone, cannot stop climate change. Its contribution to world GHG emissions is tiny.  Yes, it produces oil (but even California produces the same amount). If Alaska exited this market tomorrow, how much would world gas prices rise by?  What other location would increase its production so that GHG emissions would barely change? 

If the state’s leaders believe that the U.S will soon introduce a carbon tax, then this early regulatory ramp up may lower the long run costs of adjustment.  While this second argument could make some sense, I would like to know more about the perception that Federal carbon taxes will rise (from $0 right now) within the next years.

At the end of the article there is subtle discussion of the state’s nascent climate adaptation efforts. Of course, Alaska has strong incentives to step up here and I agree with Nancy Fresco that Alaska’s experiments in adapting will provide valuable lessons for other areas. This “guinea pig” effect is a key piece of my optimism that we can adapt to this serious emerging threat.

My Climatopolis was published back in 2010.  Take a look.  45,000 people have read this.


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