The U.K. Parliament is out with a new report that couldn't be more timely, more relevant, or more important. The subject is protecting the Arctic, where record melting this summer has prompted stunned scientists "to warn [that] the world had entered 'uncharted territory' in the rate of climate change."
Shockingly, even as this record melting is taking place, oil companies are pressing ahead with efforts to extract potentially enormous oil and gas reserves from that region. According to the new report by the U.K. Parliament, that's a huge mistake. Here are a few key points that deserve emphasis:
- "The damaging effects of climate change are being felt strongly in the Arctic. It is warming twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet."
- "A total collapse [of the Arctic ice cap] would not only lead to further warming of the Arctic, but would be disastrous for its unique ecosystem and wildlife, and may have damaging ramifications for regional and global climate."
- "Ironically, greater exploitation of the Arctic's oil and gas resources is becoming a reality as fossil fuel-driven global warming forces the retreat of the ice-cap."
- "The heightened risks when drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic are further exacerbated by the Arctic being one of the least understood places on Earth and highly sensitive to environmental damage."
- "Given the heightened risks of drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic, including a lack of conclusive evidence that oil spill response techniques will work fully effectively in Arctic conditions, we conclude that there should be a moratorium on drilling in the Arctic until [a number of important steps are taken]."
- Those steps should include "much higher, preferably unlimited, financial liability regime for oil and gas operations."
Meanwhile, as Michael Conathan, the Center for American Progress’ oceans policy director, recently explained, "I hope the irony isn’t lost on people: it is the fact that we have burned so many fossil fuels that have led to climate change that has allowed the ice to recede and that has subsequently now opened up these areas to drilling, and our response is to go in and extract more fossil fuels that we can burn and perpetuate the cycle." Clearly, this is not the direction we should be moving, especially when the sun, wind, waves, and tides are available as inexhaustible, increasingly economic, and environmentally friendly alternatives.