Nowhere on earth is the footprint of climate change more dramatic than in the Arctic. Scientists estimate that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, with dramatic consequences to ecosystems, infrastructure and communities. The retreating sea ice will bring both economic opportunities and grave risks. In the state of Alaska, the complexities of climate change are already apparent. Politicians, shippers, businesses and energy companies are looking forward to a new economic boom that will help the state bounce back from its sharp decline in oil production and associated uncertainty about the future health of state finances. The manifestations of a changing climate – melting sea ice, thawing permafrost, and stormier coasts – also pose great risks to Alaska’s population and ecosystems and pose economic challenges just at a time when oil may no longer finance the bulk of Alaska’s state budget.

During the summer of 2012, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy brought together a group of four Rice undergraduate interns from diverse academic disciplines to travel to Alaska report on the sustainable development challenges facing the state. Committed to an integrative approach to the question of sustainable development, our interns investigated a range of issues associated with Alaska, climate change, and development of the state’s oil and gas potential.  The results may be found in these blog posts.  These blogs reflect the views of their student authors and are based upon interviews and study of scientific, policy and social science literature on the subject during the spring semester policy studies course “Integrated Solutions to Sustainable Development.” The posts are not, admittedly, intended to be a comprehensive exploration of these challenging topics. Rather, they are, we hope, a first stop for readers who wish to explore further the complex and often contentious issues surrounding sustainable development in the Arctic.

For our vision of the importance of Alaska for the broader Arctic region the future of which is increasingly shaped by the effects of climate change, click here.  

Click here to read the Baker Institute's Sustainable Alaska student blog.

Click here to follow the Baker Institute's Sustainable Alaska students on twitter.




Climate Change Issues

Managing Oil Wealth