Alaska is experiencing environmental changes that scientists attribute to global warming. These changes include rising average temperatures, retreating glaciers, melting sea ice, coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, and alterations in wildlife migration patterns. Although the state has taken an inventory of its greenhouse gas production, it has yet to take steps to limit production of these gases, which are believed to play a major role in global warming.
Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation is responsible for the conservation, protection, and improvement of the state’s natural resources and environment and for the control of water, land, and air pollution.
While air quality in Alaska is generally good, the state has a few air pollution problems. A leading problem is high levels of carbon monoxide in urban areas during winter. During temperature inversions in winter, which trap pollutants near the ground, air quality in Fairbanks and Anchorage occasionally fails to meet federal standards. Automobiles, and in Fairbanks coal-fired power plants and home heating, contribute to air pollution. Toxic air emissions, especially ammonia and benzene, are largely confined to areas near oil refineries.
Landfills designed with modern environmental safeguards have been opened in Alaska, although much of the state’s solid waste is disposed of in older facilities. Open dumps are the primary disposal facilities in rural Alaska. The state made progress in reducing the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment during the late 1990s and the 2000s.
Virtually all of the state’s waters are unpolluted. Nevertheless, many in Alaska drink water from systems that violate federal safe drinking water standards. Most of the drinking water problems stem from inadequate public sewerage, especially in rural areas. Water quality has also suffered because of oil spills and poor petroleum waste disposal practices. In March 1989 the supertanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound and discharged about 260,000 barrels, one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history. Experts estimated that the environmental and ecological damage caused by the spill could take decades to undo. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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