Congress gets climate change warnings
By Rose Ragsdale
For Petroleum News
Two Alaskans from different camps joined others in urging Congress March 20 to take action to address climate change. Deborah Williams, Alaska conservation activist and former special assistant for Alaska to the Secretary of Interior, called for swift and decisive action to curb the effects of global warming and climate change, while Mark Myers, U.S. Geological Survey director and former director of the State of Alaska’s Oil and Gas Division, stressed the need for further research, monitoring and the need to adapt to a changing climate. Both Williams and Myers were testifying before the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals.
A key recommendation from Myers and Williams was that Congress support research and development of alternative energy sources.
Myers, whose science-based agency does not make policy recommendations for regulatory action, led an afternoon of witnesses, ranging from industry to intellectuals. He said the USGS had noticed effects of climate change for 30 years and has studied the phenomenon for two decades.
“The USGS has a well-balanced niche for not only conducting but also leading research in terrestrial, fresh-water and coastal systems,” Myers said, “and is able to provide unbiased science to decision-makers.”
While climate change is generally viewed as detrimental, some changes, such as greater access to energy resources due to melting sea ice, may actually be beneficial, according to Myers. He recommended that Congress add support for efforts to commercialize gas hydrates, a potentially abundant and clean energy resource; fund research to understand how to sequester carbon dioxide and make use of it as an alternative energy.
When a committee member asked if climate change is a problem that Congress needs to address, Myers replied, “Yes, we believe we do have a problem with changes in climate, and we need to adapt to those changes.”
Williams, who also represented the 40-group Alaska Conservation Council, told the panel that climate changes brought on by global warming are devastating in Alaska, especially in the Arctic. She cited rising sea levels swamping coastal lakes, and even submerging at least one old drilling site in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska; melting Arctic ice threatening polar bears; warmer temperatures causing declines and diseases in fish populations, and slowing timber growth as well as sparking massive wildfires.
Among her recommendations: reinstate the moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration in Bristol Bay; fund more research into geothermal, wind, wave and hydroelectric energy generation in Alaska; support efforts of the Denali Commission to invest in wind generation for electricity and production of hydrogen for export.