Less than an hour after President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement on Thursday morning, protesters gathered outside the Moose Lodge.
They were there to picket U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s appearance at the lodge, where she gave a presentation called “Update from D.C.” at the weekly Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
“We just heard that Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris accord, which is utterly embarrassing, shameful and catastrophic,” said Elaine Shroeder, a longtime Juneau resident and member of 350 JUNEAU, a climate change action group. “We in Alaska are warming at twice the speed of the rest of the Lower 48 and we can see the impact of climate change. We are urging our elected officials to read the science and act upon it.”
Three protesters gathered outside the building holding signs regarding climate change in Alaska.
“We’re here to remind Lisa that the future of oil is very grim. We need to transition into a renewable energy future,” said Suzanne Cohen, a local acupuncturist. “We have to get proactive for Alaska’s economy and start coming up with some really good ideas for how we’re going to bridge. Because we can’t continue to burn what’s in the ground and expect to have a livable climate. We can’t. And the science is there.”
Murkowski discussed her “agnostic” approach to the president’s decision and the issue of climate change, emphasizing the need to balance Alaska’s oil economy while also protecting the environment.
“We need to be looking to how we are ensuring that we are good stewards for the land around us while at the same time providing jobs and an economy for the people that live and work and raise their family there,” Murkowski said.
During his announcement earlier that morning, Trump discussed the possibility of a renegotiation of the agreement.
“I’m not entirely sure what that means,” Murkowski said of the President’s comment. “That to me seems incredibly difficult. You have 160 nations that are already signed that are moving forward with the commitments that they have made. I don’t know how we come in as the holdout as I understand it … how we renegotiate it. I don’t think we have that kind of leverage quite honestly.”
The senator’s focus rested on the global position of the U.S. and possible “diplomatic repercussions” this withdrawal could cause.
“I do think that exiting has the potential for ramifications for us in terms of a leadership role, in terms of how others view our commitment to our environment,” Murkowski said. “I think that what we ought to look to is how the United States can best leverage itself as a world leader in advancing priorities that are important not only to our country but to the world at large … if you stay in you have greater leverage ability.”
Murkowski noted Alaska’s unique role in climate change response, referencing several Alaskan communities like Shishmaref that are experiencing rapid erosion, threatening a coastal lifestyle.
“My hope is that with the president’s decision to go this route, it does not mean that fall back as a nation on our efforts to address and mitigate the impacts we see from a warming climate,” Murkowski said. “Because we see it here in the state and it is real and we’ve got an obligation to help address it.”
• Erin Granger is an intern for the Juneau Empire. Contact her at email@example.com.