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Shell’s $7bn Arctic folly is at odds with global action


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August 16, 2015

Sir, We are profoundly alarmed at Shell commencing drilling into oil-bearing rock in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. Drilling in this fragile habitat is riddled with risks for local communities and for the environment, including species that depend on the sea ice, such as polar bears and bowhead whales. The reckless pursuit of hydrocarbons is also incompatible with tackling climate change.

There is no reliable technology for the effective containment, recovery or clean-up of oil spilt in ice-infested waters. Shell has not published the results of the testing of its safety capping stack and containment dome, undertaken after its failed Alaska operations in 2012. Therefore the public cannot be sure that the environment would be protected in the event of a blowout. Meanwhile, at Hanna Shoal, near the drill sites, thousands of walrus haul out on to sea ice — a reminder of the environmental stakes for the Arctic.

Drilling is also at odds with global action on climate change. The scientific evidence is that the majority of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground in order for the world to stay below 2C of global warming. This month about 20 influential foreign ministers will meet in Alaska to discuss climate action, as part of the build up to the UN climate change negotiations in Paris (COP21) later this year. Tackling global climate change is linked to the future of Arctic peoples and its wildlife — and protecting the Arctic is in turn vital to the future of all humanity.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean is a recipe for disaster. Shell should cease this $7bn folly and instead set out to concerned shareholders and the public how it intends to transition its business model to one that is compatible with 2C of global warming.

David Nussbaum

Chief Executive, WWF-UK

Johan van de Gronden

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