In a powerful call for international action on climate change, a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates recently sent a letter to the Heads of State who comprise the Arctic Council, urging them to protect our climate and the Arctic from oil and gas exploration.
Signed by 5 women Laureates, the letter labels climate change "... not only the environmental challenge of our time, but also a critical issue of human rights, justice, and equity," and comes just days after the United States and Canada announced a series of joint commitments to preserve their shared Arctic lands and oceans, while accelerating the transition to clean energy and combating climate change.
The Laureates' urgent call to protect the Arctic's indigenous people, and all future generations, from the ravages of oil drilling makes concrete the type of bold action needed to translate the U.S.-Canada commitments into real world action.
The letter also shines a spotlight on the Obama administration's impending decision whether to open the U.S. Arctic to oil drilling or to instead permanently take it off the table to future leasing.
As the Laureates write, "Nowhere are the effects of global warming more stark than in the Arctic, where temperatures are rising twice as fast as the global average." Sea ice is already in retreat and permafrost is collapsing, threatening the very existence of indigenous communities whose homes are literally sliding into the sea. This is a vivid reminder of the human impact climate disruption is already having, and the fact that it falls disproportionately on the poor, vulnerable communities, and women.
The Laureates engagement reminds us all that opening vast new areas of the U.S. Arctic to the oil industry to drill for oilâ€Š--â€Šthat won't be available for decades and locks-in carbon pollution for generationsâ€Š--â€Šwould flatly contradict our nation's commitment to a clean energy, environmental justice, and a climate-safe future. It would also put at direct risk from oil spills and other pollution marine resources of critical cultural and subsistence value to indigenous peoples.
With the world watching, it is incumbent on President Obama to join his fellow Peace Prize recipients and once again lead the world in the fight against climate change. It is time to close the door once and for all on drilling in the Arctic. Held in the public trust, our last pristine ocean must be preserved, not sacrificed.