Obama’s Arctic oil ban advances key climate test

Written by Marion Davis

Friday, 30 December 2016 00:00

SEI 2016 oped Arctic oilA view of the Chukchi Sea from aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. Flickr / NOAA Ocean Exploration

Efforts to slow the expansion of fossil-fuel infrastructure can help forestall further entrenched interests and carbon emissions until more far-reaching and cost-effective policies can be put in place.

The Arctic, and its images of icebergs and the Inuit people, are in trouble. This November, Arctic sea ice coverage plunged 300,000 square miles lower than ever recorded for that time of year. That is an area four times bigger than Washington state. Last week, Arctic temperatures were at least 20 degrees Farhrenheit higher than normal. In these conditions, native people can’t hunt, and ecosystems won’t survive.

The Arctic is ground zero for the effects of climate change, and so it is perhaps fitting that some of the world’s largest producers of carbon-based fuels are lining up to drill for more fossil fuels there. For them, adapting to these new conditions in the Arctic means one thing — easier access to oil and gas.

Thankfully, the Obama administration has seen it differently. With the joint U.S.-Canada announcement that the Arctic will remain permanently off-limits to new oil and gas drilling, Obama recognized the risk of spills to communities, but he also showed he understands the climate consequences.

Everyone understands how an oil-soaked coastline is bad news. But it can be harder, especially for political leaders and government agencies, to see the connection between new offshore oil drilling and climate disruption.

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Learn more about the SEI Initiative on Fossil Fuels and Climate Change »

Source: Seattle Times, US
Language: English