Alaska's Governor Calls For More Oil Drilling To Pay For Climate Change Damage

Alaska's Governor Calls For More Oil Drilling To Pay For Climate Change Damage

The Governor of Alaska, Bill Walker, says there is an urgent need to expand the search for oil in his State to pay for the damage being caused by global climate change.

He says Alaska is suffering "significant" climate impacts from rising sea levels forcing many remote villages to be relocated, something he says is "hugely expensive".

Walker wants drilling to begin "urgently" in the protected lands of the Arctic National Wilderness Refuge to cover the costs.

The dramatic drop in the price of oil over the past two years has affected Alaska severely as it receives 90 percent of its day-to-day expenditure from oil and gas production levies. It is the only U.S. state that doesn't have revenue producing income or sales tax.

Walker says that as Alaska's income from oil continues to fall, expenditure on climate related activities such as coastal erosion increases. He cited as an example the remote community of Kivalina which has a population of 400 and sits on a narrow spit of land. He says the community is constantly under threat from the sea, despite huge expenditure on "defences". He say just last week surging seas destroyed a 3 metre stretch of beach near the airport. He says to evacuate the whole village will cost $100 million.

"We are in a significant fiscal challenge. We have villages that are washing away because of changes in the climate," says Governor Walker. "I don't see anyone putting together contribution funds to help move Kivalina; that is our obligation, we stand by that - we need to figure out how to do that. But those are very expensive - we have about 12 villages in that situation."

He says extra drilling is needed to pay for these expenses - "Absolutely, in a responsible way as we have in the past. 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."

Environmentalists say that the Governor's idea about drilling to pay for climate change is a "simplistic solution".

Lois Epstein from the Wilderness Society says, "What's going on in villages is certainly of concern to me as an Alaskan but I think the governor knows there's never going to be enough money to move everybody that needs to be moved as climate change continues to advance."

"It's really not going to be something that the state is going to take on its own. The federal government is going to help, but we really need some bigger strategies to deal with climate change both as a state and a nation." says Epstein.

He says the native Americans who live in the affected area do not want to see more drilling, regardless of what the money is used for.

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

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