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Protecting Arctic Wildlife

The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic are home to about one in five of the world's remaining polar bears.

The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic are home to about one in five of the world's remaining polar bears.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Photo

Earthjustice is working to save the Arctic and its wild inhabitants from the twin threats of oil and gas development and catastrophic climate change.

The Arctic is a thriving, diverse landscape filled with life. Unfortunately, it’s also ground zero for climate change, with the area warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. The Arctic’s wild inhabitants, such as polar bears, walruses, bowhead whales and migratory birds, already vulnerable from other environmental stressors, are feeling the heat as a warming planet threatens their resources and chances for survival.

The Arctic’s climate is changing faster than species can adapt. The Arctic waters are acidifying even faster than other oceans because cold liquid, like soda pop, holds far more carbon than warm liquid. The increased acidity creates new stressors for marine life.

As climate change melts sea ice, the U.S. Geological Survey projects that two-thirds of polar bears could disappear by 2050.

Earthjustice is protecting Arctic wildlife by:

  1. Limiting unwise oil and gas development in the Arctic through administrative advocacy and litigation. Scientists have calculated a "carbon budget," which is the amount of carbon dioxide we can safely release into the atmosphere before 2050 and stay in the range of a 2-degree temperature rise. The IPCC says no more than 820 billion metric tons of carbon can be released, of which 515 already had been by 2011. Yet, the agency in charge of the leasing areas on the outer continental shelf for offshore oil and gas activities has already offered tens of millions of acres of the Arctic Ocean to oil companies, and now the agency is considering a plan to open up even more of this extraordinary part of the planet to Big Oil. Earthjustice’s time-out message and legal strategy have been very effective in preventing risky exploration drilling for several years.
  2. Seeking more science-based and effective management decisions that protects the Arctic Ocean and its marine life from the potential impacts of drilling. Earthjustice has also been working with clients to provide critical analysis on environmental impact reviews that the government has prepared to assess the impacts of oil and gas exploration activities on marine mammals.
  3. Fighting to protect imperiled species. America's Arctic Ocean supports endangered bowhead whales, beluga whales, gray whales, several seal species, Pacific walrus, polar bears and about a hundred fish species. In addition, endangered whales have begun to migrate into the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in recent years. Many of these species provide important subsistence resources to Alaska Natives.