The closer you get to the poles, the greater the deviation of temperature from its historic averages. So, Alaska leads all other states in the degree of impact from current climate changes. For them, the writing on the wall is much plainer than for the Lower 48 and Hawaii.

Alaska’s Climate Impact Assessment Committee issued its report on March 17 and a balanced report it was, recognizing the upside of a warmer Alaska along with the downside. Benefiting the state would be increases in tourism, research and commercial shipping. (Not to be negative, but if the tourism and research are increasing because the environment is changing so fast, those benefits may be not only fleeting, but ironic in the extreme.)

On the other hand, global warming continues to threaten dozens of rural communities on or near the coastline, with accentuated erosion problems. The impact of climate change will also be felt in commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries, and sport and subsistence hunting, as well as in the way the insurance industry deals with Alaska, the report said.

The Committee remanded its recommendations to the governor’s new “sub-cabinet for climate change,” and,

recommended that the Legislature consider a coordinated process for village relocation efforts, a review of capital planning statutes to determine if they meet the needs of potential future impacts, and support of federal efforts on mapping, tide stations, U.S. Coast Guard presence and permafrost thaw.

So Alaska, it seems, will be the first state to begin relocation planning to deal with current and expected climate change impacts. Beside loss of permafrost and migrating coastlines due to the softening of terrain, the committee also forecasts changes in migratory patterns of wildlife that will affect indigenous lifestyles around the Arctic Circle and changes in boreal forests that are increasingly threatened by insect infestations due to warmer winters.

And, of course, the insurance industry has recognized the need for changing its policies in light of Alaska’s altered climate.

The insurance industry also will be reviewing insurance regulations, potentially making significant changes that will be necessary as a result of global warming, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the report noted.

If you’ve had occasion to visit your local government web site looking for guidance on climate change issues (not likely), you may have come away unimpressed. Here in Marin County, we’ve got one of the more sophisticated sites that I’ve visited (and I got to visit hundreds of them in my work at Trilogy). But none of them hold a candle to King County, Washington’s site.

Here, you find not just the government essentials, wrapped up in a pleasant design. You have what amounts to a combination community newsletter, streaming video channel, RPIN (Regional Public Information Network) alert link, and – within its Natural Resources and Parks Department, a collection of information, reports and opportunities dedicated to conservation, mitigation and adaptation.

Then you get to the internal web site of County Executive Ron Sims and his initiatives, which include Global Warming, and Environmental Protection. These two initiatives alone -ronsimsgw.jpg if they were the only things King County was doing besides “the essentials,” would put it ahead of all but two or three counties in the U.S. in terms of advance planning for climate change.

I’ve spoken with Elizabeth Willmott, the Global Warming Coordinator for the initiative. She referred me to Peg Reagan, Executive Director of Conservation Leaders Network.

I talked to Peg.  As someone who is always trying to get the attention of county commissioners (or whatever their local titles may be), she informed me that they are predominantly understaffed and overcommitted. I’m not surprised, but the contrast between what King County is able to accomplish and what the vast majority of counties seem able to accomplish is dramatic.