Quantcast

President Obama, Are You a Climate Champion or a Climate Hypocrite?

Climate

President Obama just gave away the American Arctic Ocean to one of the most irresponsible oil companies on Earth, and he will bear responsibility for the consequences. The decision to green light every step of Shell’s pathway to its oil and gas lease in the Chukchi Sea was a critical test of President Obama’s climate legacy, and he failed.

Drilling for Arctic oil and gas is unnecessary and should not even be up for consideration according to the latest climate science. Yet over the past five months, the federal government has been busy removing any and all administrative hurdles in Shell’s way. After affirming the original lease sale and approving every permit needed to discharge pollution, harass wildlife and transport its drilling fleet to the Chukchi Sea, it looks like the Obama administration wants Shell there as quickly as possible.

The irony of President Obama’s climate position is not lost on the American people. We have repeatedly been told about the unprecedented threat that climate change poses to the health and well-being of our environment and society. In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama said, “No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”

At the United Nations Climate Change Summit in October 2014, he said the urgent and growing threat of climate change will dramatically define this century and that the U.S. is stepping up and embracing our responsibility to combat it. On the contrary, he continues to let companies like Shell move forward with destructive fossil fuel projects.

The question every American should be asking right now is: “President Obama, are you a climate champion or a climate hypocrite?”

If Shell’s more than $7 billion gamble leads to the discovery of recoverable oil and gas deposits, the earliest production could begin is between 2025 and 2030. By 2025, however, the U.S. has agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels. Despoiling the pristine Arctic to increase oil and gas production at a time when we need to be reducing emissions makes no logical sense.

Read page 1

If President Obama earnestly wants to use his remaining term in office to combat climate change, his choice regarding oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean should be easy. If Shell continues to get its way, we are faced with a very bleak future:

  • Unpredictable sea ice conditions and storms lead to accidents for Shell’s drilling fleet, where emergency responses are limited due their location 70 miles from shore and nearly 1,000 miles from the nearest Coast Guard base.

  • A 75 percent chance of a large oil spill that Arctic conditions make extremely difficult and nearly impossible to contain or clean up.

  • A number of iconic marine animal species, including threatened and endangered species like the Pacific walrus and polar bear, are harassed during Shell’s drilling operations.

  • Subsistence hunters are unable to access or hunt the animals that are of vital importance to their culture.

  • Climate change is exacerbated as the extraction and burning of Arctic oil and gas releases an estimated 15.8 billion tons of carbon emissions. As a result, reductions in sea ice continue to reach record levels and coastal erosion forces several Alaska Native villages to permanently relocate.

But this does not have to be the new reality for the American Arctic Ocean. President Obama has one last opportunity to stop this reckless and short-sighted project. He can deny Shell’s revised application to allow for deeper drilling of oil and gas deposits and protect the people and wildlife that depend on a vibrant Chukchi Sea environment from a toxic legacy that will surely last decades.

If President Obama takes a stand, billions of gallons of oil will be left in the ground, and an important message sent to Big Oil: the oil and gas deposits contained under the American Arctic Ocean belong to the American people and will be managed in their best interest, not the interest of growing Big Oil’s profits. The legitimacy of U.S. leadership as head of the Arctic Council will be strengthened and President Obama will be poised to start a needed discussion about curtailing fossil fuel extraction going into the United Nations climate talks in Paris this winter.

The American Arctic Ocean is a sensitive, ecologically-rich, and unforgiving environment, making it one of the worst places to drill but one of the best places to stand up and say “No!” to Big Oil. President Obama should be held responsible for his deeds and not his words. He can no longer hide behind his climate legacy rhetoric while giving Shell access to Arctic oil and gas without being called a climate hypocrite. The American people, the Arctic Ocean and our climate future expect and deserve better.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Arctic Oil Drilling Is a Climate Disaster, Says New Report

10 Years Later: Fracking and the Halliburton Loophole

Shell Dumps ALEC as Oil Giant Prepares to Drill in Arctic

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Blueberry yogurt bark. SEE D JAN / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Having nutritious snacks to eat during the workday can help you stay energized and productive.

Read More Show Less
A 2017 flood in Elk Grove, California. Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

By Tara Lohan

It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.

Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Jennifer A. Smith / Moment / Getty Images

By Brenda Ekwurzel

When temperatures hit the 80s Fahrenheit in May above latitude 40, sun-seekers hit the parks, lakes, and beaches, and thoughts turn to summer. By contrast, when temperatures lurk in the drizzly 40s and 50s well into flower season, northerners get impatient for summer. But when those 80-degree temperatures visit latitude 64 in Russia, as they just did, and when sleet disrupts Mother's Day weekend in May in Massachusetts, as it just did, thoughts turn to: what is going on here?

Read More Show Less
Shrimp fishing along the coast of Nayarit, Mexico. Tomas Castelazo / Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

By Paula Ezcurra and Octavio Aburto

Thousands of hydroelectric dams are under construction around the world, mainly in developing countries. These enormous structures are one of the world's largest sources of renewable energy, but they also cause environmental problems.

Read More Show Less
Activists in North Dakota confront pipeline construction activities. A Texas bill would impose steep penalties for such protests. Speak Freely / ACLU

By Eoin Higgins

A bill making its way through the Texas legislature would make protesting pipelines a third-degree felony, the same as attempted murder.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
An Australian flag flutters in the wind in a dry drought-ridden landscape. Virginia Star / Moment / Getty Images

Australia re-elected its conservative governing Liberal-National coalition Saturday, despite the fact that it has refused to cut down significantly on greenhouse gas emissions or coal during its time in power, The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Tree lined street, UK. Richard Newstead / Moment / Getty Images

The UK government will fund the planting of more than 130,000 trees in English towns and cities in the next two years as part of its efforts to fight climate change, The Guardian reported Sunday.

Read More Show Less
A tropical storm above Bangkok on Aug. 04, 2016. Hristo Rusev/ NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Jeff Turrentine

First off: Bangkok Wakes to Rain, the intricately wrought, elegantly crafted debut novel by the Thai-American author Pitchaya Sudbanthad, isn't really about climate change. This tale set in the sprawling subtropical Thai capital is ultimately a kind of family saga — although its interconnected characters aren't necessarily linked by a bloodline. What binds them is their relationship to a small parcel of urban land on which has variously stood a Christian mission, an upper-class family house, and a towering condominium. All of the characters have either called this place home or had some other significant connection to it.

Read More Show Less