The Arctic is one of the most vulnerable areas of the Earth. It is home to Indigenous communities and incredible wildlife. Yet politicians and oil companies want to reap the resources underneath the Arctic sea ice, add more profits to their current oil funds, putting us ALL at risk because of increasing global warming. We’ve seen the effects of climate change first-hand with weather conditions that are more extreme than ever. As politicians sign the Paris Agreement and speak on how sustainable their country is, they continue to grant new licenses to oil companies. And as energy companies distract us with new renewable options, they continue to drill oil wells in the Arctic. Well, we won’t be fooled. We need to come together to save the Arctic from further destruction and save the Earth from further global warming.
The first thing to do, if you haven't done it already, is to sign your name at www.savethearctic.org. Get your friends and family to sign on as well, share our campaign, and let's mobilize as many people as we can as quickly as we can. We're taking on the world's most powerful countries and corporations here, this isn't going to be easy, but when we win it will be because there are so many more of us than them.
The Arctic states share a great responsibility to protect the Arctic. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea even gives special attention to semi-enclosed seas and ice-covered waters and calls for nations to co-operate to ensure that the environment is protected. In other words, international law says they should be doing what we want them to do. It's going to require political will in the capital cities of the Arctic states, and that's where we come in. Through force of numbers and the strength of our cause we will change attitudes in those countries and force governments to act.
This movement is not asking for the whole Arctic to be declared a sanctuary — and we do not want a ban on all fishing. Instead we're campaigning for a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the North Pole, more than 200 nautical miles from the coastlines of the Arctic states. In Russia we are already seeing the oil industry's destructive effect on the Arctic. The people there have had their way of life and their future destroyed by big oil. This must not happen in the rest of the Arctic. As former Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo has said: “The Arctic is coming under assault and needs people from around the world to stand up and demand action to protect it. A ban on offshore oil drilling and unsustainable fishing in historically unfished areas would be a huge victory against the forces raging against this precious region and the four million people who live there. And a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the pole would in a stroke stop the polluters colonising the top of the world without infringing on the rights of Indigenous communities.”
The Arctic is a unique and vulnerable environment. As well as being home to many species found nowhere else on Earth, the region also plays a critical role in regulating the global climate. But the Arctic is under threat — from climate change, from oil companies looking to drill in the dangerous and fragile waters of the Arctic Ocean, from industrial fishing and from shipping, all facilitated by the retreat of the sea ice. In 30 years we have lost as much as 75 percent of the Arctic sea ice (measured by volume in the summer). As the ice melts, companies are moving in to exploit the oil, precious metals and fish, and are anxious to use the northern routes to shorten shipping journeys. This brings threats of oil and other spills, pollution, and underwater noise, invasive species, overfishing and habitat damage.
It matters to everyone on the planet because the Arctic acts as the world's refrigerator, keeping the planet cool. Burning fossil fuels that melt the ice is like leaving the global fridge door open. That's because ice is highly reflective. Most of the solar energy from the sun that hits ice when it arrives at ground level is reflected away, safely back out to space. Open ocean reflects less of the sunlight which reaches it, and absorbs more. The Arctic sea ice is acting like a sun hat, keeping the entire world cool — lose it, and the entire world heats up faster. A further danger is methane release. There are methane deposits inside the Arctic circle, sealed in place by ice or permafrost, and also huge amounts of dead vegetation, which will decay and release methane and CO2 if it thaws. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas, which has a short-term warming impact many times that of CO2. Recently methane releases in the Arctic have caused alarm in the scientific community, although the lack of good historical data makes it difficult to determine how unusual this is. Like a layer of plastic wrap covering a bowl of soup, Arctic sea ice keeps the churning ocean underneath it from splashing up against the coast. A thick layer of sea ice absorbs the power of big waves, preventing them from slamming into beaches and sea cliffs. But as the ice melts, the ocean has started to tear away at coastlines and to flood seaside villages.
The US Geological Survey estimates that the region holds 13 percent of the world's undiscovered reserves, or about 90 billion barrels. But this is nothing more than a guess – no one really knows how much oil there is or whether it will be possible to extract it. But 90 million barrels would only feed the world's oil addiction for about three years, but at the expense of allowing polluting industries to move wholesale into the Arctic. We should be investing in low-carbon solutions instead, so our cars can be powered by renewable energy in the long term and use much less oil in the short term.