Nobel Laureates urge ban on Arctic fossil fuel exploration

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The pristine Arctic environment is facing increased threats as the region warms. @bberwyn photo.

‘We urge you to … protect the Arctic Ocean from the dangers of fossil fuel extraction’

Staff Report

Any plans to drill or or explore for fossil fuel resources are morally unacceptable and scientifically unsupportable, a group of female Nobel Prize winners wrote this week in a letter to the Arctic Council.

The letter, signed by members of the Nobel Women’s Initiative (Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman), highlights the urgency of taking meaningful action on climate change and leaving fossil fuels in the ground. It also calls attention to the serious risks that drilling in such a remote and sensitive region poses to Indigenous communities, wildlife, and the environment.

The Arctic Council includes Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the U.S. The group meets this week in Fairbanks, Alaska under U.S. leadership. The council was formed to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic states, Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

But as sea ice melts and the region warms, development pressure has grown and there are concerns about the potential impacts of increased human activity in the region, including shipping, fossil fuel exploitation, tourism and, not least, Russia’s bid to militarize the region, which could end up being the biggest threat of all.

“Climate change is threatening hundreds of millions of lives and livelihoods across every continent, making it not only the environmental challenge of our time, but also a critical issue of human rights, justice, and equity. As recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, we believe that it is one of the greatest threats to global peace and stability,” the letter states.

The Nobel laureates also want to shine a light on the fact that the Obama Administration is about to release a five-year offshore drilling plan, which represents a critical piece of President Obama’s legacy on climate and the environment. As the current chair of the Arctic Council, the U.S. can make a strong show of leadership for other Arctic nations to follow by removing the U.S. Arctic Ocean, not just from its current plan, but from all future oil and gas exploration and production.

“The Arctic Council has the opportunity to serve as a model of the international cooperation that will be needed as we collectively phase out fossil fuels and transition the world to cleaner, more sustainable sources of energy,” the letter states. “We urge you to seize this moment, to set a high standard for multilateral climate leadership, to protect the Arctic Ocean from the dangers of fossil fuel extraction, and to lead as the world builds the safe, clean, and renewable energy future we need.”

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