THE BLOG
05/15/2008 02:46 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Changing Views at Ground Zero for Global Warming

Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich is a candidate to represent Alaska in the U.S. Senate

If you'd asked me four years ago, I would have said global warming wasn't a big issue. I would have said that the evidence isn't conclusive. Now that couldn't be further from the truth.

From Left to Right: Nick, Tom, Mark
& Stephanie Begich, c. 1970

Jacob Begich at Portage Glacier, 2005

What happened?

My change started when I went to Sundance in 2005 with forty mayors, Al Gore and Robert Redford. This was back when An Inconvenient Truth was just an incredible PowerPoint presentation and not an Oscar-winning film. But the presentation opened my eyes for the first time -- and what I saw shocked me.

I returned to Alaska after that one and one-half day trip. I pulled out a photo of me as a child by the Portage Glacier with three of my siblings, and the ice was just ten feet from me. Then I went out to the same location with my then three-year-old son, Jacob, and took a photo of Jacob. I literally couldn't see the ice. What happened to me in that moment was truly life-changing.

The evidence was right there in those two pictures. I went back to Anchorage and I started to act.

In 2006, I had the Municipality of Anchorage hire a Renewable Resources Coordinator, as well as two interns. I also created a community grant program to support groups that were doing work to protect our climate.

Anchorage is now implementing programs to save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars through policies such as replacing street lights with LED lights, shutting down city computers when not in use and harnessing methane gas from the city landfill. The methane capture project will produce enough electricity to power 2,500 homes for over 40 years. These simple actions help save our city money and conserve resources that would otherwise be wasted, making life easier and cleaner for Alaskan families

With fellow mayors from Southcentral Alaska, I formed the Tri-Borough Commission which is spearheading a balanced Alaska energy policy emphasizing new development, conservation and renewable energy. I've also spearheaded the creation of a task force asked to look at merging the operations of Alaska's two largest electric utilities. Initial estimates put the potential savings of joint operations at $200 million.

I want to bring my results-oriented attitude towards climate policy that has been successful in Anchorage to the national level. My record of results for Alaskan families when it comes to energy is a big reason why I'm ready to serve in the U.S. Senate.

What I saw at Portage Glacier in 2005 was, sadly, the rule and not the exception when it comes to the climate crisis in Alaska.

Alaska is ground zero for global warming. I look around our state and see all the signs. Villages are literally being washed into the ocean. The polar ice cap is shrinking. Wildlife populations are being displaced and pests like the spruce bark beetle are destroying our forests. We have to do something.

I've seen the value action at the municipal level has had in my city and around Alaska. The meaning is clear: we need leadership today at all levels of government to confront global warming.

But we specifically need national leadership that has the experience, knowledge, and commitment to get results. As a U.S. Senator, I will lead the fight to get results for Alaska's families and all Americans. The time to act is now.

Learn more about Mark's campaign for U.S. Senate in Alaska at Begich.com.