Climate Action Across the Country – Alaska, Alabama, Florida
We continue our review of climate action in states across the country (read Part 1: NC, WI, MT and Part 2: VT, LA, MI). This month we are highlighting three very different states where Republicans dominate local government: Alabama, Alaska, and Florida. The impression that Republicans aren’t concerned about climate (a legacy of Donald Trump) has recently been re-examined by Pew Research. Their findings show that while this is generally true, there are some Republicans who are very concerned and ready to act.
Alabama’s Republican majority legislature is not addressing climate change, while the small but valiant climate concerned community is trying to talk about the issues in a way that can be heard. Alaska is caught between the state government backers of an economy currently founded on oil and gas, and the communities who are threatened by the rising sea. Florida is also besieged by sea level rise and flooding, and despite a majority of Republicans in charge of government, the state is moving forward decisively, with bipartisan support, to both mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Alabama has the lowest level of climate action that we’ve seen in any state. The governor and legislature are not acting on climate, and their state climatologist, John Christy, was an appointee to the EPA who has since been removed from that position by the Biden Administration. Fortunately, Auburn University is a beacon of climate light with their participation in a global education program to help people in Alabama understand how to talk about climate in ways that are not polarizing. The Auburn and AL A&M Cooperative Extension Programs are also focused on finding ways to talk about climate. For example, “Parents as Environmental Leaders” provides information and resources to help families connect with nature and spend time outdoors, and the “Make Climate a Class” challenge integrates climate change into existing curriculum.
Alaska, which is literally losing ground daily to sea level rise, has a governor and legislature that do not want to talk about climate change or moving away from fossil fuels. Nevertheless, people in Alaska are worried; they are researching, documenting change, and making resilience a priority with the support of federal programs, many of the local tribes, and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF). In March of 2021, the Center for Arctic Policy Studies at the UAF released a comprehensive review of Alaska’s climate policy and legislation that documents their challenges in maintaining a fossil fuel based economy while also legislating to support climate action in earlier years. The cognitive dissonance of this situation is apparent to many but not yet all. “Greening” the economy is not yet under public consideration by the legislative powers.
Florida is also losing ground daily and has a Republican governor and majority legislature. In contrast to Alabama and Alaska, however, it has just passed (May 2021) very comprehensive legislation to address sea level rise, flooding, and resilience planning for both coastal and inland communities. For a state that banned the words “climate change” in 2015, this is a major turnaround and a sign of hope. Florida is using their existing regional council structure, that brings counties and municipalities together for many purposes, to advance climate mitigation and adaptation across broad swathes of the state in united and collaborative efforts. The new legislation strongly supports the regional council structure that has been doing productive climate work for many years.