The Arctic serves as the proverbial canary in a coal mine for climate change, warming at twice the rate as the rest of the world. These rising temperatures impact both the wildlife and people who rely on the region for food and shelter. It’s also driving a new “cold rush,” a race to claim Arctic resources that are becoming accessible for the first time in tens of thousands of years.
Right now, there is little offshore oil and gas production in the US Arctic and recent exploration efforts demonstrated the high risk of operations going awry in the region’s extreme environmental conditions.
We now have the opportunity to keep drilling out of the Arctic Ocean. Every five years, the US government identifies regions in which it will allow drilling over the next five years. The Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas—home to many diverse animals such as whales, walruses, and polar bears— are included in the draft plan just released by the Department of Interior. But, we still can urge our government to remove these pristine places from its list.
“The US needs to accelerate our nation’s transition to a renewable energy future, rather than opening the Arctic to a new wave of risky offshore drilling endeavors,” said Margaret Williams, managing director of the US Arctic program.
The Obama Administration has taken great strides in addressing climate change and the Arctic. We need to continue that momentum.
Offshore drilling in the Arctic is risky: there’s no proven way to clean up an oil spill in its icy waters. From the animals that migrate from below the equator all the way up to the Arctic Ocean, to the wild harvest of fish that helps feed our nation, many species could feel the impact.
In addition to jeopardizing the health of the Arctic oceans, more drilling also increases reliance on fossil fuels—all while releasing pollutants like carbon directly into the atmosphere, accelerating the melting of sea ice and putting at risk the wildlife that relies on sea ice to survive.
Now is the time to act
WWF has been on the ground in the Arctic for several decades, supporting local communities’ conservation efforts and conserving the ecological diversity of the region. By keeping offshore drilling out of the Arctic, we can demonstrate to the world that the United States is serious about following through on our climate commitments set at a landmark meeting of 196 countries last year in Paris.
We can make a difference. Together, let’s tell the Obama Administration to keep offshore drilling out of the Arctic.