In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced he would push forward with new offshore drilling — which includes the pristine waters of the Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, and Cook Inlet off Alaska’s coast. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) wrote a report in June 2011 that described dozens of areas that required further scientific research before taking the risks of disrupting the unique ecosystems on behalf of the oil industry. Now, nearly 600 scientists from around the world have signed an open letter urging President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to base Arctic drilling decisions on science, not politics:
We, the undersigned 573 research scientists, call upon the Administration to follow through on its commitment to science by acting on the USGS recommendations. Doing so prior to authorizing new oil and gas activity in the Arctic Ocean will respect the national significance of the environment and cultures of U.S. Arctic waters and demonstrate the value that your Administration places on having a sound scientific basis for managing industrial development of the Outer Continental Shelf.
“Already stressed by rapidly melting summer ice, the whales, walrus, ice seals, polar bears, and other wildlife in these waters are especially vulnerable to oil spills and industrial activity,” the Pew Environment Group and the Ocean Conservancy explain in a full-page ad they will run in the New York Times and Politico highlighting the letter.
Drilling for fossil fuels in a melting Arctic would accelerate the potentially catastrophic destabilization of the planet’s thermostat. As National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco told ThinkProgress Green, “We don’t fully understand what the consequences of that are going to be.”
An upcoming report from the Center for American progress, due to be released later this month, will examine in greater detail America’s deficiencies in regard to Arctic infrastructure and oil spill response preparedness, and suggest steps to be taken before activities, such as drilling, commence in the world’s last unspoiled frontier.