OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Permanently Protect the Arctic and Atlantic for our Children and Future Generations

The Obama administration’s recent decision to keep offshore oil drilling out of publicly-owned portions of the U.S. Arctic and Atlantic oceans for the next five years was the right choice.

There is simply no place for Arctic or Atlantic drilling in a climate-safe, clean energy future. Not in the next year. Not in the next five years. Not ever.

It will never make sense to put our climate and these drill-free waters at risk this way. Once drill rigs sink their bits into the ocean floor, our communities, climate and health will be vulnerable to the devastating oil spills and widespread pollution that come with offshore drilling.

That is why we are calling on President Barack Obama to seize the opportunity to permanently withdraw portions of our publicly-owned oceans from oil and gas leasing. The president has the power to do this, using the same statutory authority exercised by past presidents from Eisenhower to Clinton to protect our oceans and coasts. Using this authority, Obama can protect our children, our climate and future generations.

It’s a move that is clearly supported by climate science, public opinion, and hundreds of businesses and coastal communities.

According to public opinion polling by Hart Research, the majority of Americans strongly favor protecting our Arctic and Atlantic Oceans over expanding drilling, with support especially strong from women and young people. The public supports using our public resources to combat climate change, not contributing to the problem by turning them over to private oil companies.

The science is definitive: We can improve our climate future by keeping oil drilling out of the Arctic and Atlantic. Drilling and burning Arctic and Atlantic oil is incompatible with meeting our climate goals, a recent analysis from the Stockholm Environmental Institute and more than 30 scientists from a host of disciplines confirms. If companies succeed in drilling oil in the Arctic and Atlantic — which is not guaranteed — it would take decades for that oil to reach consumers. That is well past the time when the world must turn the corner to clean energy or face catastrophic climate change, according to leading climate scientists.

Americans from across the country are calling for protection, not drilling. For example, thousands of communities and businesses along the Atlantic coast want an end to the threats of seismic testing and oil spills because their way of life depends on a healthy ocean economy that would be crippled by oil spills. These are businesses, communities and jobs that are thriving now and should never be put at risk.

In short, we will not need — and must not ever burn — oil from these regions if we’re serious about delivering the next generation a habitable planet.

When it comes to the lands and oceans the U.S. holds in trust for all people, we should listen to younger generations. Young people today believe we should invest in clean energy, not use our federal lands and oceans to develop more fossil fuels that harm our health, pollute the climate, and rob future generations of our natural heritage.

Over the past eight years, Obama has accomplished more in the fight against climate change than any other president. There is still one opportunity he has before the end of his tenure that no other world leader has. He can steer us away from dirty energy by permanently protecting the Arctic and Atlantic coasts from offshore drilling.

Doing so will set an example — and offer a challenge to the rest of the world — for limiting the global warming that threatens our children and the earth they will inherit from us. We can provide a powerful beacon of hope and prevent any future administration from putting these oceans, communities, and our climate at risk.

Obama has said the measure of our success in the climate fight is whether we can look our children in the eye and say, “We did all we could.” We have always been inspired by these words. They are more relevant now than ever.

Chris Carson is the president of the League of Women Voters. The league is a nonpartisan political organization that works to encourage informed and active participation in government, increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influence public policy through education and advocacy.

 

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