On April 13, Sen. Lisa Murkowski made an unexpected visit to Bethel on her way to Eek. Murkowski had hoped to check out Eek's new running water and a tiny home project, but she got weathered out.
Instead, she joined Bethel residents in celebrating the annual river breakup, which was the earliest on record. Though people shared hot dogs and experienced live music and Yuraq dance, it was another example of climate change taking a toll on the region.
"It is a reality that we are seeing," Murkowski said.
Democrats and Republicans are divided on how the country should tackle climate change in Congress. Many Democrats back the “Green New Deal," which is not yet a bill, but a proposal to completely rewrite the U.S. economy to tackle inequality and climate change. Republicans like Murkowski think that’s too idealistic.
"What I'm trying to focus on is leading on an analysis and assessment of what is some of the pragmatic solutions that we're putting in place now," Murkowski said.
Comparatively, those solutions are modest: invest more in technologies like nuclear energy, and not single out solar and wind as the only renewable technologies that would cut down on emissions.
"I want to make sure I don’t leave people with the idea that there’s one silver bullet. I don’t. I think there are many," Murkowski said.
Each one, she says, should be affordable and tailored to a specific place. The Y-K Delta pays some of the highest power bills in the state. Murkowksi is also not a fan of subsidies for renewable energy from the federal government, and she does support natural resource development, which includes oil, the biggest extraction industry in Alaska.
Before her visit to Bethel, Murkowski wrapped up a hearing in Washington D.C. with the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee on climate change. She says that she hopes that will push the conversation forward.