About two weeks after Barack Obama gave Shell the green light to drill for oil in Arctic waters off the Alaska Coast, the president is embarking on an ironic three-day visit to Alaska aimed at highlighting the drastic effects of climate change on the state’s environment. According to Grist, along with traveling the state to see what climate change is doing to glaciers and permafrost in the state, Obama is also expected to call for more action on climate change and push for commitments to reduce carbon emissions – ahead of the UN Climate Summit taking place in Paris this December. Environmentalists were quick to call out the president for the hypocrisy of these two seemingly conflicting decisions.
“Indigenous people of Alaska have seen alarming impacts from climate change already, and Shell’s drilling will only make them worse,” said Faith Gemmill of RedOil, a local indigenous environmental group that’s planning protests against Shell in Anchorage. She added that coastal erosion and increasing wildfires are threatening native communities throughout Alaska. “We are in a climate crisis here, and advancing energy extraction within our ancestral territories would seriously exacerbate climate change and threaten our ability to survive in the Arctic.”
But, according to the Guardian, Obama says the move to allow drilling by Shell isn’t in conflict with climate change and a move to a clean energy economy. “Even as we accelerate this transition, our economy still has to rely on oil and gas,” Obama said in an address. “As long as that’s the case, I believe we should rely more on domestic production than on foreign imports.”
Despite that fact, even supporters say they’re disappointed by the decision. “No president has done or said more about the threat of climate change than Barack Obama,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters. “That is why we remain deeply disappointed that Shell has been allowed to begin drilling in the Arctic Ocean this year.”