The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Alex Frank, (703) 276-3264 or

34 Leading Scientists to President Obama: The Arctic Must be Permanently Protected from Drilling

New Letter Highlights ‘Hypersensitivity of Arctic Ecosystems’ and Inability to Manage Serious Risks of Oil Spills and Potential Disasters Under Arctic Conditions


Nearly three dozen leading scientists, including officials with the federal government during the Obama administration - are asking President Barack Obama to permanently protect the Arctic region from offshore drilling and exploration. The letter to President Obama is available online at:

According to the 34 respected scientists, managing the risks associated with offshore drilling would be particularly difficult due to the extreme sensitivity of Arctic ecosystems and the difficulty of responding to and mitigating potential disasters under harsh Arctic conditions.

The letter to President Obama states: "Pressures are mounting to fish, mine, and tour the Arctic, but fossil fuels are the resources most coveted. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Arctic Ocean. We can lay no claim to sustainability if we continue to develop the Arctic's offshore fossil fuels. First, the hypersensitivity of Arctic ecosystems, combined with our obvious inability to respond to significant spills under Arctic conditions, means that we are taking risks that we cannot manage; we are essentially crossing our fingers that we will cause no severe, adverse events such as the Exxon Valdez or Deepwater Horizon oil spills. That is not the approach of a country committed to sustainability ..."

The statement continues: "Exploitation of offshore Arctic fossil fuels poses unnecessary risks to Arctic marine ecosystems specifically and the global environment generally. Such exploitation places our needs above those of future generations, and undercuts efforts to address climate disruption in a responsible manner. The basic tenets of good citizenship call for thoughtful, responsible, enlightened action--including restraint--to address climate disruption, even if other countries are slow to follow our example. Your strong leadership these past eight years indicates that you know these things to be right and true. Your wisdom and courage have brought new hope to our country and the world. Please take yet another difficult, courageous step: Withdraw--permanently--the U.S. Arctic Ocean from further oil and gas development."

This letter preceded the Obama administration's November 18th announcement that it would halt oil and gas leasing for the next five years in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the Alaskan coast and stand by a previous plan to prevent drilling for oil and natural gas in the Atlantic Ocean off four southeastern states. These leading scientists join the growing list of stakeholders including thousands of businesses, members of Congress, environmentalists and editorial boards calling on the President to go even further to protect the Arctic and Atlantic regions by using his powers as President to permanently ban offshore drilling and seismic testing before leaving office.

In alphabetical order, the full list of scientists signing the letter are: Albert Harting, Ph.D., Harting Biological Consulting; Brenda Becker, Secretary, The Wildlife Society Hawaii Chapter; Andrew J. Read, Ph.D.; Anne Salomon, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Coastal Marine Ecology and Conservation Lab, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University; Brendan P. Kelly, Ph.D.; Carl Safina, Ph.D., Founding President,, Endowed Professor for Nature and Humanity, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University; Christopher Clark, Ph.D., Bioacoustics Research Program, Cornell University; D. Ann Pabst, Ph.D., Department of Biology and Marine Biology, University of North Carolina Wilmington; David Taylor, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sustainability, Sustainability Studies Program, Stony Brook University; Donald Croll, Ph.D., Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Santa Cruz; G. Carleton Ray, Ph.D., Research Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia; Gary K. Meffe, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation (retired), University of Florida; George Antonelis, Ph.D., Board Chair, Na Kama Kai; James Harvey, Ph.D., Director, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories; Joanna Burger, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences, Rutgers University; John Harte, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley; Kimberly Raum-Suryan, Sea Gypsy Research; Lisa T. Ballance, Ph.D., Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Megan C. Ferguson, Ph.D.; Michael Gochfeld, MD, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and School of Public Health; Michael Moore, Ph.D., Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; P. Dee Boersma Ph.D., Department of Biology, University of Washington; Paul R. Ehrlich, Ph.D., President, Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Stanford University; Paul Dayton, Ph.D., Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Richard L. Wallace, Ph.D., Professor of Environmental Studies, Ursinus College, Educator-in-Residence, Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative; Robin W. Baird, Ph.D., Cascadia Research Collective; Rosalind M. Rolland D.V.M., Senior Scientist, Director of Ocean Health, Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, New England Aquarium; Scott D. Kraus, Ph.D., Anderson-Cabot Center for Ocean Life, John H. Prescott Marine Laboratory, New England Aquarium; Stephen A. Toth, Director, Duke University Marine Laboratory; Steve Carpenter, Ph.D. Director, Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Tamara McGuire, Ph.D., IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group; Tara M. Cox, Ph.D., Savannah State University; Timothy J. Ragen, Ph.D.; William F. Laurance, Ph.D., FAA, FAAAS, FRSQ, Distinguished Research Professor & Australian Laureate, Prince Bernhard Chair in International Nature Conservation; and William McLellan, Biology and Marine Biology, University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.