On his way out, Trump threatens public health and the climate
With changes last month of federal environmental regulations in favor of opening up the Alaska Tongass National Rainforest for mining and deforestation, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) may have his dreams come true.
With rising temperatures, the Arctic fights the changing climate, massive oil and gas exploration, drilling and distribution on the Arctic Sea and Alaska’s Coastal Plains, and seismic testing on the Coastal Plains.
The Arctic plays a key role in the Earth’s climate system by cooling the planet. But heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels and other human activity are heating the Arctic more than twice as fast as other regions.
Frozen saltwater has a lower density than liquid saltwater, making the icepack float. The brightness of the icepack reflects heat from the sun and lowers the temperature of the water. But as the planet warms from burning fuels, the ice melts and the ocean absorbs the solar heat, raising the ocean and air temperature.
Climate change is accelerating in the Arctic. Thinning ice in the Arctic Ocean made this year’s navigation season the longest on record. Voyages started in May, a month early, and will continue until at least the end of December. Record warmth meant slower freezing during the autumn. Tanker traffic, pollution, and carbon emissions from tanker navigation kept open the sea routes, damaging the icepack.
Last year, Trump granted Hilcorp a permit for offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean. This Beaufort Sea project included construction of an artificial island and an underground pipeline. But last week, the U.S. Ninth Court of Appeals revoked the permit.
Arctic Coastal Plains
Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the most pristine life-giving land with a biodiverse ecosystem, the sacred place of the Alaska Gwich’in Nation, will be auctioned for oil and gas fracking leases on January 6.
The Bureau of Land Management announced last month a massive lease sale of 32 oil drilling tracts covering 1.6 million acres in the ANWR Coastal Plain.
But this is a lot more than just drilling. Roads will be built, forests will be clear cut, and water and wastewater trucks and drilling equipment will disrupt the wilderness of the land and the lives of the indigenous people.
The BLM was ordered to rush the lease sale before President Biden takes office on January 20. The Auction will take place on January 6.
Protecting the Arctic is a smart climate strategy
Gwich’in means “people of the land,” the people who have lived in the region since before the U.S. and Canada existed, “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins.” Their worldview is one of caring for the caribou, plants and rivers.
The Gwich’in homelands span both countries living in 15 small villages. Alaska was a Russian colony from 1744 until the USA bought it in 1867. In 2019 Canada was concerned with the oil and gas drilling plans in the ANWR.
This is what the Gwich’in Nation says: “We acknowledge that our homes are located on the ancestral and unceded traditional territories of the lower Tanana Dene Peoples and the Dena’ina Peoples. The Indigenous people of this land never surrendered lands or resources to Russia or the United States.”
What if the Gwich’in get full ownership of their ancestral land in the Biden administration, as a way to repair America’s broken treaties with indigenous people? The Gwich’in would be the best caretakers of the Arctic Coastal Plains.
Save the Refuge
Please visit defendthesacredalaska.org and make a comment opposing the “BLM Alaska Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Lease Sale.”
Here are some suggestions: Please deny the Oil and Gas Lease Sale and respect the sovereign Gwich’in Nation. This is one of the last remaining areas in Alaska’s Arctic that exists untouched.
This is an abuse of federal power and a climate crime. Last Saturday the United Nations urged a global climate emergency declaration.
National Wildlife Refuges are federal conservation lands chosen to protect the health of animal and plant populations. Drilling requires Congressional Action.
Dr. Luis Contreras