In this Jan. 7, 2013 photo, a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter flies over the Kulluk, the Shell floating drilling barge off Kodiak Island in Alaska’s Kiliuda Bay, as salvage teams conduct an in-depth assessment of its seaworthiness. Citing the disappointing results from an exploratory well in 2015, and challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment, Shell abandoned drilling in U.S. Arctic waters. The Trump administration is pursuing petroleum lease sales in Arctic waters but an analyst says potential bidders may find other areas more attractive. (James Brooks | Kodiak Daily Mirror File)

Report: Alaskans fourth highest greenhouse gas emitters per-capita

Human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Alaska have decreased by 8 percent since 1990, according to an updated report from the Department of Environmental Conservation released Tuesday.

The state’s per-capita emissions are still some of the highest in the nation, but overall, Alaska is 40th out of all 50 states and Washington, D.C. for greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the new report, Alaska has the fourth highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions of any state in the country. Only West Virginia, North Dakota and Wyoming came in higher in per-capita emissions.

The updated report adds data from 2011-2015 to a report from 1990-2010. Some of the trends found in the report are new, some are ongoing.

“One of the really significant findings in some ways was the stability that we’re seeing in this report,” said Denise Koch, director of the Division of Air Quality. “The major emitters are the same, those patterns haven’t changed.”

In 2014, Alaskans contributed roughly 35 million metric tons of carbon and carbon equivalent. Thirty-nine states had higher overall greenhouse gas emissions, with Texas being the highest at almost 650 million metric tons and D.C. the lowest with just a few metric tons.

Each of the states which came in higher in per-capita emissions has a population below 2 million and comparably large amounts of industry. Industry (54 percent) and transportation (35 percent) are Alaska’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters by sector.

“We do know that’s consistently been the largest slice of the pie,” Koch said.

The report will inform Gov. Bill Walker’s new Climate Action Leadership team, Koch added. It measures six gases, including carbon dioxide, known to contribute to global warming. Known as the “Kyoto” chemicals, the report measures how much of each Alaskans are putting into the atmosphere and weights them based on their propensity to increase the greenhouse effect, a leading contributor to global warming. Natural sources of greenhouse gases, like wildfires, are not included in the report.

The state has seen an overall decrease of about 8 percent in the amount of greenhouse gas, measured in millions of metric tons, released into the atmosphere on an annual basis since 1990. That decrease has kept pace with an overall decrease in U.S. emissions.

Alaska’s emissions peaked at about 50 million metric tons 1995-2007 and have continued on a mostly downward trend since then, dropping down to around 40 million metric tons in 2015.

The decline could have to do with changes to the economy and the oil industry. Or it could be due to changing cultural practices, like fewer people opting to bike to work or reuse shopping bags.

“We can’t pinpoint a part cause for that decline,” Koch said.

Alaska’s emissions are a small part of the U.S.’s overall, making up 0.63 percent of total U.S. human-caused emissions. Worldwide, that share is about .009 percent.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.


A chart from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s air quality division shows Alaska’s greenhouse gas emissions compared to national emissions.

More in News

Police calls for Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

Bartlett Regional Hospital on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Man reports being bitten by bear

First responders say he suffered superficial wounds.

Man flown to Seattle after early morning crash

The man, whose name has not yet been released, was ejected from the vehicle.

Dr. Al Gross is an undated photo provided by the campaign. Gross has gained national attention as a strong contender to oust incumbent Sen. Dan Sullivan in the 2020 Senate race. (Courtesy photo | Dr. Al Gross for U.S. Senate)
Anti-Trump group ad supports Gross for Senate

Lincoln Project enters the fray.

Police calls for Friday, July 31, 2020

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

Police calls for Thursday, July 30, 2020

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

New takes on annual programs and brand new projects are in Perseverance Theatre’s future, said the theater’s artistic director Leslie Ishii in a video interview. (Peter Segall | Juneau Epire)
Perseverance Theatre reveals first show of upcoming season

Playing the field and “World of Warcraft.”

The University of Alaska Southeast campus on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Sealaska Heritage Institute, university partner for new degree program

An Associate of Arts with an emphasis on Northwest Coast arts.

Cases of syphilis in Alaska more than doubled in a year, according to Alaska Department of Health and Social Services data. (Courtesy Photo / Wikimedia)
Syphilis cases in Alaska more than double in a year

STDs are reaching all-time highs in Alaska.

Most Read