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Friday, November 5, 2021

Gov Kills Palin’s Climate Change Sub-Cabinet

Here’s another reason why Sarah Palin was a better governor than Sean Parnell.

(SPOILER ALERT: He killed an entire sub-cabinet, and never bothered to tell the public)

Remember that special group Palin created to address the warming of Alaska due to climate change, and the threats this poses to Alaska’s coastal communities? It’s easy to forget, but it was 2007 when the Palin administration created that group, after she expressed her concern over the unwelcome changes that global warming was bringing to the state. They even had an “Immediate Action Plan” for the most at-risk from sea level rise, loss of sea ice, erosion and other climate related issues.

All that happened before the VP madness, when Palin suddenly went from a populist governor who would work across the aisle and wasn’t completely insane, to the Tea Party’s angry celebrity Joan of Arc, and shrieking climate change denier.

Don’t get me wrong, she was no tree hugger. “Taking off her governor’s hat,” she spoke out against a clean water voter initiative that would have made it harder for the proposed Pebble Mine to poison Alaska’s biggest salmon fishery. And then there was the whole shooting wolves from helicopters deal. But, she did do one thing, and the Climate Change Sub-Cabinet was it. They even began the implementation of an actual strategic plan for the state.

You can look at the full page HERE. It’s really kind of sweet.


And there’s a picture of the old Sarah in her red suit and bun, signing the administrative order, with a couple of 6,000 year old fossils on the credenza behind her, and a RedBull next to the keyboard. Ah, those were the days.

Erosion in Shishmaref, Alaska

Erosion in Shishmaref, Alaska


Before you get too excited about all this, Palin’s “bridge to the future” turned out to be another “bridge to nowhere.” Mudflats contributor, retired University of Alaska professor, and Board member of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Rick Steiner started seeking information about the group via public record requests in November of 2012. He wanted to know exactly what happened to the Climate Change Sub-Cabinet, and it’s strategic plan.

According to documents just released, the climate group is no more. Three years ago, after Palin quit and former Conoco Phillips exec Sean Parnell took over, the political climate also changed. All that preparedness and planning came to an end, and the sub-cabinet was quietly shut down – gone like a melting iceberg. Oil companies don’t really like to talk about climate change, you see. It kind of makes them a little uncomfortable.

“Alaska is the state most vulnerable to climate change, and its disastrous effects are here now, and growing worse every year,” Steiner said. “Convening the Climate Change Sub-Cabinet was the singular environmental achievement of Governor Palin, and now even that has been terminated by her successor, Governor Parnell. Ironically, Alaska’s present oil and gas production contributes to the global warming that threatens Alaska’s future. We can’t simply ignore this threat, hoping it will go away – it won’t.”

In a response to Steiner, dated February 1, 2013, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) finally admitted that the Climate Change Sub-Cabinet last met three years ago in February 2010. The DEC defensively maintained that some climate-related work continued until later in 2010, but withheld all three records documenting that work. DEC also maintained that the incongruously named “Immediate Action Work Group” continued some activity early into 2011 when it, too, lapsed into oblivion.

As of this writing, the state appears to be a Climate Change Sub-Cabinet death denier, because the page is still up and kicking, even though the group is not. There’s even a page with some pretty scary pictures of the effects of climate change already in the state.


The ex-half-governor has lapsed into oblivion, and now her sub-cabinet has followed suit. And so that’s that. Parnell’s disinterest in the affects of climate change on his state, and his fawning attentiveness to the every wish and whim of the oil companies has ushered in an era where the little good that Palin did (the Climate Change Sub-Cabinet, and the ACES oil tax structure) has been targeted for annihilation.

And the more than 100 Alaskan communities at risk from erosion, flooding, melting permafrost, increased wildfire vulnerability, loss of sea ice, and impacts on infrastructure? They have been hung out to dry thanks to the oil lobbyist in the Governor’s Mansion.  Alas, once again Alaskans have gotten exactly what they voted for.




21 Responses to “Gov Kills Palin’s Climate Change Sub-Cabinet”
  1. Alaska Pi says:

    I don’t know how the documentary you saw about Shismaref framed the drinking water/ice question you had but here’s a stab at some bits and pieces.
    The Inupiat lived in 2 clear regional groups- the People of Sea and the People of Land. (There are beautiful names for the groups which I can neither spell nor pronounce but know when I hear them )
    Disease and starvation after white contact blurred those distinctions as people moved from traditional areas, mostly from lands to sea. In relatively recent years some people have migrated back to their traditional family areas.
    I know very little about the Inupiat of the Land and only a bit about about the Inupiat of the Sea.
    Mostly, from what tiny bit I know, winter water in earlier years came from freshwater ice :
    “Immediately after freeze-up in the fall, the villagers actively prepared for winter storms and darkness…
    was also the time for repairing houses and storing fresh water ice in underground cellars for eventual use as cooking and drinking water. ”

    so I would be interested in the documentary’s sources.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      Shishmaref supposedly has had some capital improvements to its water system in recent years but the “improvements” to the Sof A page where one can search those kinds of things make it impossible at present to see what has actually been funded and how far along the projects are.
      As recently as 2004 ,residents chopped fresh water ice in the winter and collected rainwater to “supplement” city water supplies.
      p 16 , 2,7g Water and Sewer
      The supplement dealie is kind of complicated. Doesn’t mean what it might elsewhere really, but that’s a whole other story in itself.

    • mike from iowa says:

      The doc is titled”The Last Days of Shishmaref”(2008). There is a book with the same name. I have to remind you about my hearing so I may have missed some vital information about water source. I am pretty sure they said they get their water frim surrounding ice,but I can’t guarantee that. BTW-you can pull my leg all you want,I love it. Good to know people still have a sense of humor!

  2. kath the scrappy says:

    I don’t know if this is an appropriate spot to plug this, but dang it might help with climate change – a little step in the right direction for 3rd world countries. Pretty intriguing & awesome IMO. jeez it also cuts down on plastic bottles being sent to a landfill and it’s a bit more light than the curly squiggly light bulbs I already use on my kitchen stove top.

    Drink Bottle + Water+ Chlorine= 55 Watts Of Light

    “The bottle light was developed by a woman at MIT, and a Harvard grad student made it widely available thru his foundation. He gave a talk at the Kennedy School and had a shed built out on the courtyard to demonstrate how much light even one bottle provided.

    Here is a link for donations if anyone wants to help ‘spread the light’
    – – –

  3. mike from iowa says:

    ……we’ll drink the rw kool-aid then
    and they called it all “god swill”

  4. shelley gill says:

    There’s really no choice left for Alaskans. We have to impeach Sean Parnell and take Treadwell out with him.

  5. tallimat says:

    I remember when this subcabinet started.

    A couple of months later, Limpballs with his trash mouth, got all frothy about a wonderful young lady from rural AK, who testified before congress about what global warming is doing to her village.

    Limpballs was so disgusting when talking about this young lady. He went on for days.
    My question back then and now is, when Limpballs was trashing this young lady, why didn’t this subcabinet speak up for her?

    I find it interesting that a a former Alyeska landman headed the subcabinet.
    Big oil needs those right of ways ya know.

  6. Hedgewytch says:

    It’s ironic here I am at the AK Forum on the Environment, the largest environmental conference I the region, that’s AK, ID, OR and WA, and one of the main tracks this week is the climate change issue.

  7. mike from iowa says:

    I watched a documentary late last week about Shishmaref Island and that house was featured. Where are those people to go when the sea overtakes their island?

    • Alaska Pi says:

      Ah jeez.
      This is getting to be a majorly sucky week for Alaska news.

      For now, even though this outfit hasn’t caught on the Climate Change Subcabinet is no more, there is a lot of info and background here

      The GAO identified 31 Alaska Native villages in 2004 as “imminently threatened”

      There are certainly many more whose situations are deteriorating.

      Things this Gov wishes would just go away :

      “Extreme weather in Alaska is not a new phenomenon, and Alaska Natives are accustomed to adapting to its effects. Traditionally, many communities would adapt to the seasonal variability by migrating between hunting grounds throughout the year. However, beginning around the turn of the 20th century, Alaska Natives were forced to settle by the U.S. government, creating a dependence on the immediate area and subsequent vulnerability to events like erosion and flooding (MOVE 2010). Climate change creates more extreme seasonal events, increasing the risk associated with living in one place, including erosion of permafrost foundations on which many communities are built (GAO 2009, pg 7).”

      “The situation is complicated further by finding a site that is both culturally acceptable and structurally sound. Alaska Native communities are located in some of the most remote places in the world…”

      “…there are a myriad of political, cultural and economic factors that complicate obtaining government funding for relocation. For example, the USACE has to justify its projects by performing a cost evaluation that shows that expected benefits outweigh the cost (GAO 2004). However, estimating the cost of preserving some of the oldest cultures in the world is very complex.”

      “Another complication arises from Alaska’s political jurisdictions: “Because of Alaska’s unique structure of organized boroughs and an unorganized borough, unincorporated Native villages in the unorganized borough do not qualify for federal housing funds from HUD’s (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) Community Development Block Grant program. The disqualification of the villages in this borough is not because they lack the need for these funds, but because there is no local government that is a political subdivision of the state to receive the funds” (GAO 2009). Even funding specifically aimed to address these types of situations is sometimes unavailable to communities: “The Federal Emergency Management Agency has several disaster preparedness and recovery programs, but villages often fail to qualify for them, generally because they may lack approved disaster mitigation plans or have not been declared federal disaster area” (GAO 2009).”

      So. Gov.
      Dump the subcabinet that looked to be a decent approach to starting to work on problems facing many, many Alaskans at the most fundamental level, WHERE they live.
      Surreptitiously dump it while out front you’re pushing to give a buncha dough to the oil companies one of whom, today, asks for even more.
      I’m getting it loud and clear out here.
      Real live Alaskans don’t mean doodly squat to you but magical non-promises by non-living made up critters are worthy of all kinds of effort, eh?

      We’ve got the VRA arguments before the SCOTUS coming right up here soon. How are you going to treat us there? Another paternalistic-to-your-people-at-home routine whilst blithering on about federal over reach in DC?
      I’m just about as disgusted with all my neighbors who voted for you as I am with you, sir.

      • Zyxomma says:

        Alaska Pi, you’re always so well informed! I get an education reading your posts and their links, and I appreciate it.

        It seems Parnell is doing everything in his power to wreck your state. Here in NY, we’re trying to prevent fracking our portion of the Marcellus Shale, at least until the gas drilling companies reveal their “trade secrets;” viz. what’s in the fracking fluid.

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