Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) is an oil and gas woman. When Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced she would be his running mate, Palin told the crowd how her husband Todd worked for British Petroleum (now BP) for twenty years. But her ties go much deeper. As governor of Alaska, Palin is the chair of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and has served as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
She believes in the transcendent power of drilling but scorns renewable alternatives. Worse, she is in denial about the incontrovertible science of anthropogenic climate change. When asked recently by the right-wing magazine Newsmax, “What is your take on global warming and how is it affecting our country?” Palin replied:
A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.
This position is ludicrous and reckless. In McCain’s own words:
We know that greenhouse gasses are heavily implicated as a cause of climate change. And we know that among all greenhouse gasses, the worst by far is the carbon dioxide that results from fossil-fuel combustion.
Manmade global warming is destroying Alaska faster than any other state in the Union. Her hometown of Wasilla is the traditional starting point for the Iditarod dogsled race and the Iron Dog snowmobile race, which her husband won in 2007. In recent years, however, these races have come under threat by unprecedented conditions, despite taking place in the heart of winter:
The 2003 Iron Dog Race was cancelled by rain during the “winter that wasn’t” — “From Finger Lake to Puntilla Lake on the south side of the Alaska Range, there were walls of alder that would normally be buried beneath the snow. From Rohn in the heart of the range across the Farewell Burn to Nikolai, there was open water or no snow.” Anchorage Daily News, 2/1/03]
The 2006 Iron Dog Race began in rain: “Rain hammered the puddles on the lake ice here Sunday as the world’s longest, toughest and once coldest snowmobile race met global warming. . . No one involved in the 22-year history of the Tesoro Iron Dog race…had ever seen anything quite like this: temperatures pushing 50 degrees in early February and standing water inches deep in places.” [Anchorage Daily News, 2/13/06]
The 2007 Iron Dog Race, won by Todd Palin, Gov. Palin’s husband, again had unusually bad conditions — “Drivers were pounded by a trail lacking snow. “ [Associated Press, 2/1/08]
This year, the organizers of the Iditarod dogsled race announced that the starting point would be permanently moved 30 miles north from Wasilla to Willow. “Because of lack of snow, the competitive launch — called the restart — has not taken place in Wasilla since 2002. The following year, conditions were so dismal along some stretches of the race trail north of Willow that managers made the unprecedented decision to hold the restart in Fairbanks, more than 200 miles from Wasilla.”
Of course, it’s not just the dogsled and snowmobile races beloved by the Palins that are being permanently transformed by manmade global warming. Giant wildfires rage. Extreme temperatures are depressing oil and gas production. Alaska’s salmon fisheries and timber industry are under attack. Rising seas and melting permafrost are destroying villages. As the Bush administration ruled, the very existence of polar bears is under threat by the dissolution of sea ice by global warming. The extreme warming is impacting all other native Alaskan wildlife — from its boreal forests to beluga whales. As Timothy Egan wrote for the New York Times in 2002, “To live in Alaska when the average temperature has risen about seven degrees over the last 30 years means learning to cope with a landscape that can sink, catch fire or break apart in the turn of a season.”
Yet Gov. Palin’s response was to “sue to challenge the recent listing of polar bears as a threatened species,” claiming scientific climate models are “unreliable.”
Palin, like her fellow Alaskan right-wing extremists, has a consistent disdain for scientific reality, from climate change to evolution. Her extremist positions threaten our ability to be good stewards of this planet and our future.