IDEAS For Us | September 21, 2015

Obama, Climate Change, and the Arctic

One of the more concerning, yet less publicized topics in climate and energy lies within the Arctic Circle— an area predicted to have 13 percent of the world’s untapped crude oil. As warmer weather and waters slowly defrost the thick sheet of ice barring us from lucrative resources, the all-out sprint for territory claims have become feverish. As of this summer, the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has received approval from President Obama to begin search operations for oil in the waters of Northern Alaska, and environmentalist are not happy.

Though our President has made huge strides in the climate arena domestically and internationally, the idea of drilling in the arctic deeply aggravates locals and native Alaskan tribes. Thoil-rig-artice disapproval is actually so great that multiple law suits have targeted Shell and their weak precautionary measures in hope that the exploratory mission will not ensue. The biggest fears of the operation lie within the threat of oil spills, and while we have seen first-hand the effects of oil spills in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic Sea provides different factor to the deadly equation as it is far away from civilization and hosts choppy waters and violent storms. It is also important to consider the region’s heavy reliance on a maritime economy and the impact the a spill could have on business.

If President Obama truly believes that the only way to eradicate climate change is to taper off of fossil fuel reliance, then establishing new drilling procedures in any region of the world seems counterintuitive. Though very sparse in life, the arctic region’s health is crucial and maintaining clean waters and proper temperatures should be of upmost importance. With his last term, Obama has the potential to leave a climate legacy with the already vetoed Keystone Pipeline legislation. The President has traveled a far distance down the path of change for a stronger climate, so why turn back now?


– IDEAS for UN Team Member, Alex Frederick