America’s Arctic Ocean: A Home to Polar Bears

Summer sea ice in the pristine Arctic Ocean. Credit: Florian Schulz
Summer sea ice in the pristine Arctic Ocean. Credit: Florian Schulz
The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, the Arctic waters north of Alaska, are sometimes known as America’s ‘Polar Bear Seas’ – and for good reason. One of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world, these waters are home to the entire population of U.S. polar bears and have consequently been designated critical habitat. Many of America’s most beloved sea animals thrive here, including the endangered bowhead whale, walrus, seals and countless birds. This marine wildlife, especially the bowhead whale, is vital to the survival of the subsistence culture of the Inupiat people of Alaska’s North Slope.
Climate change is destroying the polar bear's sea ice habitat.
Climate change is destroying the polar bear's sea ice habitat.

America’s Arctic is ground zero for the devastating impacts of climate change – warming at about twice the rate of the rest of the world – and offshore drilling can only exacerbate the problem. Little is known about the effects of risky, aggressive drilling proposed by the oil industry in these abundant, pristine waters. Currently, there is no proven way to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic’s extreme, icy conditions. Shell’s long list of setbacks and failures over the last few years – coupled with the extreme risk for oil spills and further climate destruction in an already fragile ecosystem – provides overwhelming evidence that the oil and gas industry is not prepared to operate safely in the Arctic Ocean.