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The Despoiled Arctic

Despoiled Arctic: toxic smoke, flares, and pipeline.

America's Arctic is on the front lines of global warming -- temperatures are climbing at twice the global pace. Although remote for most of us, the changes happening today in the Arctic are important signs of what may come for the rest of the planet. Climate change poses a special danger to the region, where wildlife and nature have formed a delicate balance.

Dirty energy like oil and coal is a one-two punch for the Arctic: The region's wildlife suffers immediate threats from pollution, industry, and spills. But the inevitable impacts of this kind of development are more far-reaching: Burning the fossil fuels found in the Arctic will only accelerate global warming and hasten the disappearance of animals like the polar bear.

Wrestling coal from the Western Arctic to ship to Asia will leave behind a permanent trail of destruction. And seismic testing, boat traffic, and chemicals used in offshore oil development create a hostile environment for marine mammals like the polar bear and upset sensitive whale migrations. History has proven that oil spills are an inevitable part of oil drilling in Alaska.

To understand what's at stake, one need only look as far as Prudhoe Bay -- one of the world's largest industrial complexes. The oil industry reported 4,534 spills across Alaska's North Slope and Beaufort Sea between 1996 and 2004. Decades-old diesel spill sites still show little plant re-growth. Gravel fill, excavation, and waste disposal alone have destroyed 17,000 acres of wildlife and marine habitat.

A similar fate awaits the rest of the Arctic if Big Oil and its allies have their way. The reality is that we do not have the technology or the know-how to cleanup an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean. Trying to clean oil out of frigid water, covered in sea ice, in the perpetual darkness of winter would be impossible. The closest help, a Coast Guard station, is 1,000 miles away.

We cannot let the drilling and mining disasters happen across the Arctic.

Read a report of oil industry broken promises.

View a map of threats.

Oil Industry's Sprawl on Alaska's North Slope

Sprawl in 2008

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