Most of the Arctic’s federal waters are off limits to thanks to protections put in place in 2016. But the Trump administration and some in Congress want to allow fossil fuel companies to begin bidding for a chance to drill. That would be a mistake.
Not only would new drilling threaten local communities and wildlife populations, it would also run counter to efforts to meet global targets for reducing carbon emissions. The Arctic is already warming at twice the pace of the rest of the planet.
Here are five reasons why US federal waters in the Arctic should remain closed to new drilling for oil and gas—for good.
The Arctic is home to vulnerable wildlife populations
Populations of whales, polar bears, seabirds and walrus are all increasingly vulnerable to the Arctic’s changing climate. The last thing these majestic animals need is for an oil spill to destroy their habitat.
Indigenous communities depend on a healthy environment
The Arctic’s Indigenous peoples have lived in the region for millennia and remain closely connected to their environment. Even a small oil spill or gas leak could jeopardize a community’s access to food and disrupt traditional ways of life.
There’s no easy way to clean up a spill in the Arctic
Fossil fuel companies don’t have the cleanest track record, and there’s nothing to indicate their practices would be any less prone to spills in the Arctic. Unpredictable ice conditions, and months of darkness mean there’s no easy way to keep an oil spill from damaging ecosystems and wiping out wildlife. That’s a big concern because there is still no proven way to clean up a spill in the Arctic’s frigid waters.
Nearest rescue crews are hundreds of miles away
Drilling would present huge safety problems for people and wildlife. With little response and support infrastructure along Alaska’s vast northern coastline and the nearest Coast Guard base more than 1,000 miles away, our government’s ability to respond to emergencies is alarmingly limited.
We need to drill less, not more
The glaring problem with drilling in the Arctic is its effect on our planet. Carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels is already disrupting our climate and the health of our oceans, putting our human and natural systems in peril. Global targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions cannot be achieved if we open up the Arctic to new drilling.