The ban means that the government cannot hand out any new offshore oil and gas licences in Arctic waters. And without a licence, a company cannot apply to drill for oil or gas. In essence, the ban protects both the sensitive Arctic environment and vulnerable communities by stopping risky projects before they start.
Most of us couldn't imagine that it would come to this, at least not in our lifetime. The Arctic is changing from a white, ice-covered, predictable environment to one that is increasingly unstable. And because of the tight linkages between Earth's systems, changes in the Arctic will reverberate around the world.
To prevent the destruction of their hunting grounds, the remote hamlet of Clyde River in Nunavut and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organization appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which agreed to hear the case later this year. This case is in an isolated region. But the threat of massive development in yet another traditional territory is not an isolated case.
Known worldwide for its rich biodiversity and abundant marine life, Talluruptiup Tariunga, as it's called by the Inuit, is home to strong currents and tides that bring a constant supply of nutrients to the surface, sustaining a wide range of species from the land, sea and air. Polar bears, narwhals, belugas, bowheads, walrus, seals and seabirds all make their home here.
Polar bears are facing a dire situation for several reasons, and we have the numbers to illustrate exactly how potentially tragic things could be if we don't change things soon. Here's some facts on the status of polar bears today, and why action to reverse climate change is so important for this species.
Polar bears are spending longer periods in the summer and fall open-water season resting along Arctic coastlines due to thinning and retreating sea ice. Cut off from seals, their primary food source, these bears scavenge food and are sometimes attracted to communities by odours from country (hunted) food and general human waste.
Larger cargo carrying ships, tankers and larger cruise ships almost always use heavy fuel oil (HFO), one of the world's dirtiest and most polluting ship fuels. In the global Arctic, these large vessels comprise only 28 per cent of vessels, but consume 75 per cent of the total annual fuel used in the region.
To most Canadians, the Arctic is a faraway and mysterious place. It's a romantic piece of our history and identity. That wildness and cold is something we're proud of, but we don't know much about. It should play a bigger role in our consciousness. The Arctic makes up almost 40 per cent of Canada's landmass and two-thirds of our coastline.
A moment of silence was observed at the start of the Arctic Energy Summit in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Monday, September 28, in response to Royal Dutch Shell's sudden announcement that it has abandoned oil exploration in offshore Alaska "for the foreseeable future." Shell's announcement was a bombshell and caught everyone off guard. The silence in the plenary session hall -- which happens to double as a hockey arena -- was surreal. I wondered: Could this be the end of offshore oil in the Arctic?
Now is surely the time to say "enough is enough." We need to tally all the impacts we've seen, think about how many more are yet to come and decide it's time to take action on climate change. Canadians need to look at the other countries who are leading on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and realize that we're being left behind. Our leaders must implement new climate policies now and prepare for the UN Climate negotiations that are happening in Paris this December.