President Biden made history last week, when he issued an executive order on Day One of his presidency to tackle the climate crisis, including formally rejoining the Paris Agreement and directing the federal government to account for the benefits of reducing climate pollution.
These actions stand in stark contrast to the denial of climate change and attacks our oceans and coasts have faced over the last four years. We must go further, but these bold early actions offer meaningful hope for the future.
Our oceans have taken a heavy hit from climate change, absorbing about a third of the carbon dioxide we emit. And in doing so, they have become gravely sick. Ocean acidity is increasing, leading to vast coral die-offs. Warmer waters mean melting ice caps, rising sea levels and more frequent and intense storms.
Climate change is already impacting all of us, including inland and coastal communities. In places where sea level is rising and storms are worsening, communities are seeing increased flooding threaten their critical infrastructure and saltwater intrusion jeopardize fresh drinking water supplies. In other places, increased temperatures and reduced precipitation are resulting in hotter and drier conditions as well as devastating droughts, all of which have stoked unbelievably catastrophic wildfires.
But what if there was a solution that President Biden could enact today that would help reduce climate pollution, while also protecting the U.S. economy?
An analysis by Oceana released this week finds that permanent offshore drilling protections for all federal waters could prevent over 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to taking every car in the nation off the road for 15 years.
It would also prevent more than $720 billion in damages associated with climate change to people, property and the environment. For comparison, this is like losing the entire economy of a major city, like Washington, D.C., Boston or Atlanta, for an entire year.
We don’t need to look any further than the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to know how dangerous offshore drilling is. That was just one of hundreds of spills that still occur every year.
That’s why attempts to open our nation’s coasts have repeatedly been met with overwhelming bipartisan opposition from coastal communities, business owners and elected officials from every level of government.
Once extracted, oil is transported, refined and burned, generating greenhouse gas pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane at every step along the way.
Permanently ending new drilling is our best chance to prevent these emissions from ever entering the atmosphere and wreaking havoc on our lives and livelihoods.
But it shouldn’t stop there. Our oceans can also be part of the energy solution in the form of responsibly sited offshore wind, which has the potential to generate more electricity than our nation currently demands.
By permanently protecting U.S. waters from offshore drilling, President Biden would not only be delivering on his commitment to aggressively address climate change but would also protect the roughly 3.3 million American jobs and $250 billion in GDP that relies on a healthy, oil-free ocean through activities like tourism, recreation and fishing.
We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration in the days ahead to help transition the United States away from dirty offshore drilling and toward clean, renewable energy sources like offshore wind.
Diane Hoskins is a campaign director at Oceana, the largest international organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana recently released an analysis highlighting the greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas development in federal waters, as well as the associated cost of climate change impacts on health, infrastructure and the environment.