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Hillary 'Skeptical' of Obama's Plans to Allow Oil Drilling in the Arctic

Energy

Hillary Clinton has been heavily criticized by voters and her opponent Bernie Sanders for continually dodging questions about hot button environmental issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and Arctic drilling. Clinton, however, did declare in her first major campaign speech that climate change "is one of the defining threats of our time" and released a climate and energy plan Monday.

Now, on a New Hampshire television station yesterday, the former secretary of state expressed her "doubts" about drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean.

And, earlier in the day at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, when asked whether as president she would sign a bill in favor of allowing the Keystone XL pipeline, she replied, "This is President Obama’s decision and I am not going to second guess him. Because I was in a position to set this in motion and I do not think that would be the right thing to do. So I want to wait see what he and Secretary Kerry decide. If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.” 

In her response to Arctic drilling, she broke with the Obama administration saying, "I have doubts about whether we should continue drilling in the Arctic. And I don’t think it is a necessary part of our overall clean energy climate change agenda. I will be talking about drilling in general but I am skeptical about whether we should give the go ahead to drill in the Arctic.”

Clinton's remarks were praised by Sierra Club′s Executive Director Michael Brune, who said, "Secretary Clinton is absolutely right: allowing dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic is toxic to any clean energy and climate action legacy. Letting oil companies use unproven technology to extract dirty fuels in one of the world’s most pristine areas is a recipe for disaster that goes against science, the will of the people and common sense.”

Groups such as Sierra Club and Greenpeace have staged numerous protests in response to the Obama administration's decision to allow Shell to drill in the Arctic. Just today, 13 activists suspended themselves from a bridge in Portland, Oregon to block one of Shell's vessels from leaving port for Alaskan waters.

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California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.

The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."

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On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."

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