Although President Biden’s larger climate agenda teeters on the edge of congressional negotiations, he faces a massive climate opportunity in America’s Arctic.
All eyes are on the president to deliver on his climate promises, and now the chance of climate legislation appears to be fading out once again. The resident finds himself in an increasingly hot spot to deal with the climate crisis on all fronts – and the ticking off climate bomb That only the White House can defuse it is a development proposition as well particle will equal annual Produce Nearly a third of coal power plants are in the United States.
ConocoPhillips Willow’s oil and gas development project will be the largest in the country, proposed on some of the most biodiverse and sensitive public lands in America. The department recently began a process to look into the project’s environmental impact, giving the public and local communities just 45 days to assess, the shortest period legally allowed. A project of this size deserves longer, as no single oil and gas proposal has more potential to affect the climate for this administration and the legacy of public lands. Moreover, the massive proposal is just the tip of the iceberg, laying the foundation for expensive oil and gas infrastructure for decades to come. Our climate will pay the price, however – since the project won’t be in operation for years – it will have no impact on current gas prices.
Most Americans may not be able to experience the rich ecosystem and biodiversity endangered under the proposal, but for decades people from across the country and the world have raised their voices to protect the unique and unpolluted lands of the American Arctic. On a recent visit to the Otokok River (southwest of the proposed drilling area), I had the wonderful experience of seeing what’s at stake: roaming caribou, grizzly bears feeding and mating, and endless carpets of wildflowers blooming across the vast landscape. We discovered a huge tusk near the camp, which made us think about how rich the ecosystem in this area has been for thousands of years. It was a stark reminder of these critical wilderness areas, and how sensitive and pristine Arctic ecosystems will cross tipping points through industrial development, potentially endangering the extinction of key species such as polar bears and caribou.
As the single largest oil and gas proposal on federal lands – by far – Willow represents an existential threat to the climate. It will further accelerate the impacts of climate change in a region are already being devastated by climate change (Warming 3-4 times the global average). If President Biden is serious about honoring the commitments to protect the climate and public lands that helped get him elected, this is the real test.
The proposed project to drill the Arctic in America is a huge mistake: it would secure the extraction of new oil in globally important habitats for more than 30 years. Irreplaceable resources at intersection points include the migration of the Teshekpuk Caribou Herd – which provides subsistence and cultural value to the indigenous peoples – and Lake Teshekpuk, one of the largest wetlands in the Arctic, the lifeblood of waterfowl and many birds that nest and raise their young in the far north They migrate to the lower 48 states and around the world.
The consequences, including long-term and adverse consequences for food security, traditional activities, social and cultural systems, and public health, will be severe in Arctic communities in and around the region. The proposal will include up to 250 new wells at up to five drilling sites, new processing facilities, nearly 1,000 miles of glacier roads, a new airstrip, permanent gravel roads, new bridges across rivers, and more than 300 miles of pipeline.
Decision – and accountability on climate – rests solely with the White House. Willow is the penultimate climate mistake America can’t afford.
Dr. Peter Winsor lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, and is the executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Association.
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