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Independent Alaska Governor Bill Walker. (Screenshot: BBC)

Alaska Governor's Puzzling Math: To Cope with Climate, We Must Drill More Oil

Independent Bill Walker said he wants to 'urgently' drill in the protected lands of the Arctic National Wilderness Refuge

Deirdre Fulton

Displaying a rather circular logic that defies common scientific understanding, Alaskan Gov. Bill Walker has said that the state must expand fossil fuel drilling in order to pay for the damage caused by climate change.

Walker, an independent, told BBC News that Alaska is facing "a significant fiscal challenge," due to falling oil prices and Shell's decision to pull out of drilling in the Chukchi Sea. Meanwhile, he noted, "We have villages that are washing away because of changes in the climate."

To pay for adaptation and mitigation efforts, Walker said he wants to "urgently" drill in the protected lands of the Arctic National Wilderness Refuge (ANWR): "This isn't something we can put off for 10-20 years... We have to begin this process now—it's an absolute urgency for Alaska."

These remarks echo ones he made in late September, after Shell announced it was scrapping its Arctic drilling plans.

Rising sea levels and coastal erosion have been conclusively linked to global warming, which in turn is caused by rising greenhouse gas emissions. Experts have warned that to avoid worsening climate change, the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground

The Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife has described ANWR as "one of the most fragile and ecologically sensitive ecosystems in the world" and "ground zero for climate change impacts." 

The Obama currently administration opposes ANWR drilling, though the Walker administration is lobbying hard for the White House to rethink its position.

As BBC reports, "the battle to exploit oil reserves in the Refuge is likely to intensify over the coming years, much to the dismay of many native people in the area." The Gwich'in people in the region remain resolutely opposed to drilling there, regardless of what the money is used for.

"In ten years from now I'd like to see us still continuing our native ways and being able to live off the land," Princess Daazhraii Johnson from the Gwich'in community told BBC. "I'd like to see us agreeing, Alaskans agreeing, that we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground."


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