Climate Change

Alaska is the “poster state” for climate change

It’s one of the fastest-warming regions in the world! The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, and this is leading to a range of environmental and social impacts. In Cook Inlet, the effects of climate change have been especially pronounced: a massive spruce bark beetle epidemic, multiple hundred-year floods, and alarming warming trends in local salmon streams.

Climate Is Changing Why Aren't We?
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One of the most visible effects of climate change in Alaska is the melting of the state’s glaciers. Alaska is home to more than 100,000 glaciers, and these are losing ice at an alarming rate. This melting ice contributes to sea-level rise, which poses a threat to coastal communities in Alaska. Cook Inlet is home to several glaciers that are experiencing significant impacts from climate change.

Climate Change Effects Wildlife Too

Climate change is also causing changes in the behavior and distribution of wildlife in Alaska. For example, some species of fish are migrating earlier in the year, and some bird species are arriving at their breeding grounds earlier. Over the last few years, there has been serious damage to Alaska’s fisheries: pacific cod, snow crab, salmon in the Yukon, and others – with strong correlations to rising temperatures and loss of sea ice. Salmon are particularly vulnerable and require cold water refugia, areas within a stream that are persistently colder than adjacent areas, which are critical to the survival and persistence of salmonids.

Inletkeeper’s Solutions

Because salmon and salmon protection resonate with Alaskans across political, social, cultural and economic divides, Inletkeeper has now embraced salmon protection as a foundation for pursuing all its other research, education, and advocacy work.

Inletkeeper pursues these mutually-supporting efforts by embracing the following goals for its climate change work:

Speak for the fish - no pebble mine

Speak for the Fish

Collect and disseminate credible science on climate change and climate change impacts on Alaska fish resources. [Link to Stream Temperature Monitoring]

Science Field Work

Put Science to Work

Utilize salmon science to educate and connect a diverse range of Alaskans on climate change, fossil fuel combustion, and renewable energy issues [Link to Salmon Science]

Salmon jumping up waterfall

Smart Habitat Decisions

Promote salmon resilience to climate change by challenging short-sighted proposals that harm salmon and salmon habitat, and by developing “salmon refugia” to ensure fish stocks can adapt to quickly changing environments.

Solar panels at sunset

Build Sustainable Energy Future

Support wind, tidal, solar and related renewable energy technologies [link to Building our Energy Future] and projects that produce clean power and long-term sustainable jobs.

Alaska Inlet Facing Climate Change

Alaska’s Culture Faces Climate Threat

Climate Change is Having Social Impacts in Alaska

For example, many Indigenous communities in the state rely on subsistence hunting and fishing for their livelihoods, and changes in the behavior and distribution of wildlife can have a significant impact on their way of life. Alaska’s Indigenous populations have deep cultural ties to their ecosystems and natural resources, and many traditional practices and ceremonies are closely linked to the seasonal cycles of wildlife, fish, and plants. Climate change is disrupting these cycles and altering the availability of key resources, which can have significant cultural impacts on Native communities.

Finally, the impacts of climate change in Cook Inlet are complex and wide-ranging, and they will continue to pose significant challenges for the watershed in the coming years. Addressing climate change will require a comprehensive approach that includes measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve infrastructure resilience, and support the adaptation and resilience of Alaska’s populations and ecosystems.

Some of the most apparent impacts of climate change in Cook Inlet include:


Temperature Increase

Alaska has experienced significant warming over the past several decades, with average temperatures rising by 3-4°F (1.7-2.2°C) since the 1950s. This warming trend is expected to continue, with some parts of the state projected to warm by 6-14°F (3.3-7.8°C) by the end of the century.

Melting glaciers and sea ice

Alaska’s glaciers and sea ice have been melting at an accelerated rate, leading to rising sea levels and changes in ocean circulation patterns. Portage Glacier has retreated more than 2 miles since the 1900s and continues to recede at an accelerating pace. The glacier has lost nearly half its thickness and is expected to disappear completely by 2040.

Thawing permafrost

Alaska has large areas of permafrost, which are soils that remain frozen year-round. However, warming temperatures are causing permafrost to thaw, which can lead to ground instability, erosion, and the release of greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.

Changes in wildlife populations

Climate change is affecting the distribution and abundance of wildlife in Alaska, including species like salmon, moose, and bears. In addition, changing weather patterns can also affect the timing of migrations, breeding, and other critical life cycle events.

Increased frequency and severity of wildfires

Warmer and drier conditions in Alaska have led to an increase in the frequency and severity of wildfires, which can have significant impacts on ecosystems, communities, and the economy.

Alaskans stand at a vital crossroads and we have a stark choice

We can move backwards to coal and oil and gas development – with all their well-documented climate change and other problems – or we can embrace a future that includes clean, renewable power and long-term, sustainable jobs. The choice is ours, but our children will live with our decision.

While Inletkeeper has long recognized the profound implications of a rapidly changing climate on our economies, communities and environment, the issue has taken on heightened urgency in light of Inletkeeper’s salmon stream monitoring efforts. By deploying temperature data loggers in local fish streams, Inletkeeper has discovered that summer in-stream temperatures now routinely exceed state standards established to protect spawning and passing salmon.

Now, Inletkeeper is implementing a multi-pronged strategy that recognizes the importance of salmon to all Alaskans, and works to shift the discussion in Alaska from fossil fuel production, combustion and pollution, to clean renewable energy supplies, long-term sustainable jobs, and regenerative economies.