America’s Arctic Ocean, the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, is central to life in coastal communities, providing important habitat for countless species of wildlife including polar bears, walrus, ice seals, bowhead whales, beluga whales, eiders and more. The Inupiat people who live in the region call the Arctic Ocean their “garden,” and for thousands of years have depended upon intact Arctic ecosystems to provide resources to maintain a subsistence lifestyle. The Arctic Ocean and the polar ice cap also play a vital role on a larger scale in regulating the world’s climate.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Today this national treasure is in peril, as large, multinational corporations continue to push to develop the Arctic’s remote and undeveloped waters. Whether or not the U.S. drills in the Arctic Ocean will have a major impact on the global effort to address climate change. The Arctic is warming at approximately twice the rate of the rest of the world, and because the polar ice cap functions as the air conditioner for the entire Northern Hemisphere, what impacts the Arctic can seriously impact the rest of us. Loss of sea ice cover in the fall has already been linked to sea level rise and extreme weather patterns all over the country. Drilling in the Arctic Ocean could release enough carbon pollution to dramatically and irreparably alter our climate, and negate efforts to fight global warming.
Just as importantly, there is no proven way to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic’s extreme conditions. Oil companies continually tell us that they have figured out how to prevent oil spills, but as Shell’s disastrous experiences have shown, exploring and developing in the Arctic Ocean is easier said than done. Marked by sub-zero temperatures, long periods of darkness, huge currents, shifting ice floes, hurricane force winds and 20-foot (and higher) seas, it’s impossible to count on safe oil production in this region. Those dangers, combined with the Arctic’s extremely limited infrastructure – the region has no deep-water ports and only a handful of small airports, plus the nearest Coast Guard station is 1,000 miles away – provide a recipe for disaster.
No place has potentially more to lose as a result of development than America’s Arctic, which is why it is imperative that the Obama administration move towards fundamental reforms to protect this rich yet fragile region on the front lines of climate change. The best time to stop drilling is before it starts.
WHO WE ARE
We are a coalition of national organizations working to protect the pristine and beautiful Arctic Ocean. Our organizations will continue to challenge efforts to drill there, and identify those high value marine areas that most deserve permanent protection from all threats. Arctic Ocean oil would be nothing more than a new source of dirty fuel and we will continue to halt its exploitation, which is incompatible with making progress on addressing climate change. America’s Arctic Ocean is a national treasure, and we will remain United for America’s Arctic.