Environment Versus Politics Equals A Major Headache

US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have declared it: oil drilling in areas falling within the two countries’ territorial jurisdiction of the Arctic Ocean, as well as certain areas of the Atlantic ocean, is now illegal.

A statement has been released by the White House. You can read the relevant highlights below:

Today – due to the important, irreplaceable values of its Arctic waters for Indigenous, Alaska Native and local communities’ subsistence and cultures, wildlife and wildlife habitat, and scientific research; the vulnerability of these ecosystems to an oil spill; and the unique logistical, operational, safety, and scientific challenges and risks of oil extraction and spill response in Arctic waters – the United States is designating the vast majority of U.S. waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas as indefinitely off limits to offshore oil and gas leasing, and Canada will designate all Arctic Canadian waters as indefinitely off limits to future offshore Arctic oil and gas licensing, to be reviewed every five years through a climate and marine science-based life-cycle assessment.

Ultimately, this is a historic and symbolic move that appears to be a part of Obama’s attempt to tie down President-elect Donald Trump to environmental pledges and prevent him from taking steps that could potentially harm the Earth. The concern is that Trump has already made it clear that, despite the assertions of scientists, that he does not believe that humans are impacting the environment in meaningful ways and causing climate change.

Further concerns come to light as Trump continues to put individuals in office with ties to Big Oil, and environment advocates are naturally disturbed at the possibility of the Obama administration’s environmental efforts coming undone: “The ship of state is about to be turned into the Exxon Valdez,” Dan Becker, director of non-governmental organization Safe Climate Campaign tells the Washington Post.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, poised to head the US Department of Energy, also served as a board member of the Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics—the gas companies behind the Dakota Access pipeline.

Unaccounted Environmental Debt

The areas surrounding the Arctic Ocean are significantly less prepared for an oil spill compared to the areas surrounding the Gulf of Mexico. Residents argue that the best solution is to leave the Arctic Ocean alone, rather than open an industrial floodgate.

While renewable energy technologies are not perfect, and still contribute to our carbon footprint, we have to acknowledge the fact that they add up significantly less than the fossil fuels we’ve grown accustomed to.

As costs for renewables keep plummeting and cleaner, more efficient technologies are developed, it becomes apparent that it doesn’t make sense to stick to fossil fuels—keeping the rich rich as the succeeding generations pay for the unaccounted environmental debt. The good news is that investors are also making a stand: $5.2 trillion in assets have been pledged to be pulled out from fossil fuel investments.

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