Today the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate and the implications are stunning. This follows last year’s IPCC report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels which shocked concerned citizens around the globe and made clear we must address this urgent problem swiftly. Today’s report was just as dire, but conveyed that our oceans are under alarming stress from a changing climate.
If we are to take both reports to heart, it’s clear we cannot afford to burn the fossil fuels that we already have, let alone drill for new reserves. We need to drastically alter our fossil fuel use and work to help the oceans heal. With science so clear it begs the question, why has the Trump administration proposed an offshore drilling plan that opens nearly all our coasts to offshore drilling? Not only will this plan lock us into decades of carbon pollution, which we can’t afford if we want to avert the worst impacts of climate change, but also, it would stress our oceans, which simply cannot withstand much more.
Offshore drilling means routine pollution, toxic chemicals and the constant risk of a BP-style blowout. And with climate change comes stronger and more frequent hurricanes as well, which will increase the risk of disaster if rigs dot the coasts that stand in hurricane paths. Offshore drilling is basically a double blow to our oceans—increasing the risk of spills and pollution in the marine environment while fueling climate change impacts.
Thankfully, this month, the House of Representatives passed two bills that would permanently protect the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans from offshore drilling. Of course, we need to protect all our coasts from this risk. But recent action from the House sends the message that we are not interested in committing ourselves to decades of fossil fuels and careening towards the worst-case scenario.
With the House’s bipartisan move to make drilling off-limits, it’s now in the hands of the Senate. And for all Senators who have been unwilling to make that commitment to our oceans, coasts and climate, it’s time to read the IPCC’s latest report and act. Our oceans can only continue to support us if we protect and care for them. We can’t wait any longer.
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