Alaska mayor says he’s trying to encourage climate change adaptation through economy, infrastructure

Nome, Alaska, Mayor Richard Beneville said in an interview that aired Monday on “Rising” that he is working to encourage the state to adapt to climate change through changes in its infrastructure and economy. 

“My mission, if you want to call it such, is to make people aware,” Beneville told hosts Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti last week. 

“To make the American public aware of what is happening, and how it affects the United States,” he continued. “It affects us in absolutely every way — politically, economically, it affects everything, and it’s very exciting. It’s scary, but it’s also very exciting.”

“I work with a group, Intercontinental Railroad, and they want to build a railroad spur from Canada, up to the Seward Peninsula, and then a tunnel under the Bering Strait to connect with the Trans Siberian Railroad. That’s thinking outside of the box. That’s what we need to continue to do, and we must be aware that we’re not alone,” he said. 

Nome is located on the southern portion of the Seward Peninsula on the Norton Sound of the Bering Sea. 

Beneville is promoting an infrastructure project for the state’s northernmost deep water port, which he said would help diversify Alaska’s economy. 

Over 700 vessels came through the port last year; however, when the port was opened thirty years ago, it was built to accommodate 40 or 50 vessels. 

“That’s called climate change,” Beneville said. “It’s having an incredible effect on the far north.” 

The mayor said that “in a sense,” climate change has made his city more accessible, which he said has lead to greater traffic in the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska. 

— Julia Manchester