Arctic oil and gas
Oil spills, whether from blowouts, pipeline leaks or shipping accidents, pose a tremendous risk to arctic ecosystems. Marine ecosystems are particularly vulnerable.
Spill cleanup is impossibleThere is no proven effective method for containing and cleaning up an oil spill in icy water.
We can't respond quickly to a spillThe difficult conditions of the Arctic, and its distance from where response capacity is stationed mean it can take days or weeks to respond to a spill, even during ice-free periods.
Spill recovery is slowThe Arctic is characterized by a short productive season, low temperatures, and limited sunlight.
As a result, it can take many decades for Arctic regions to recover from habitat disruption, tundra disturbance and oil spills.
Economically and culturally important species are at riskOffshore oil exploration, drilling and production can disturb the fish and animals that are cornerstones of the subsistence and cultural livelihoods of Indigenous peoples in the Arctic. Arctic fisheries, providing both food and economic value far beyond the Arctic, are also at risk.
Ocean noise can injure marine mammalsWhales and other marine mammals use sound to navigate, find mates, and find food in the often dark waters of the ocean. Seismic noises, like the air gun used by oil and gas companies to explore for oil offshore, can be deafening for these species. Excessive ocean noise from oil and gas exploration and drilling could cause injury, confusion, and even death.
What we want to see
Make oil and gas projects saferNobody has the ability to respond to and effectively contain or clean up major oil spills in the Arctic. We are encouraging governments and industry to support research into risk-lowering technologies, and adopt higher standards for spill prevention and clean up.
Transition to renewable energyNeither the Arctic nor the rest of the world can safely absorb the sort of climate change that would be triggered by exploiting all of the world’s hydrocarbons. To avoid severe climate impacts, it is urgent that we move towards a 100% renewable future.
Protect valuable placesA prerequisite for any oil & gas development should be the protection of areas of special biological, economic and cultural importance. It's particularly important to protect areas shown to be resilient to the effects of climate change.
WWF has already identified three areas that should be off-limits to oil exploitation:
- the Lofoten and Vesteraalen islands of coastal Norway
- West Kamchatka Shelf in Russia
Bristol Bay in Alaska(Update, December 2014: Bristol Bay is protected!)