America’s Arctic Ocean, the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, provides habitat for countless species of wildlife and is central to life in coastal communities. This is one of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world, home to the entire population of U.S. polar bears. Many of America’s most beloved marine creatures thrive here, including whales, walrus, seals and countless birds. This marine wildlife, especially the endangered bowhead whale, is vital to the survival of the subsistence culture of the Inupiat people of Alaska’s North Slope.
The Arctic Ocean also plays an important role in regulating the world’s climate, and whether or not the U.S. drills in the Arctic will have a major impact on the global effort to address climate change. The Arctic is warming at about twice the rate of the rest of the world, sea ice continues to decline, and Arctic waters are quickly becoming more acidic. One powerful way we can slow the effects of climate change is to limit the amount of fossil fuels we are burning, and an effective way to do that is to not open up new areas to intensive drilling and protect the most important ecological areas in the Arctic Ocean.
Notwithstanding these concerns, however, the Beaufort and Chukchi seas are currently threatened by oil and gas development despite a serious lack of scientific understanding of the region and despite having no credible means for cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic’s harsh and remote conditions. To raise awareness about attempts to drill in the region thus far, the League worked with Pulizer-Prize winning animator Mark Fiore: