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CO2 Budget Depletion

11 Sep 2023 | Alaska

Biden cancels Arctic oil leases!

The Biden Administration’s monumental decision to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has led to the cancellation of 7 Trump-era oil and gas leases. It also prohibits drilling in more than 13 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve, which lies left to the Refuge. President Biden said that his Administration will “continue to take bold action” on climate change. His action on ANWR is especially pertinent given his earlier approval of the Trump-era Willow Project last March, also in the National Petroleum Reserve. 

For Gwich’in on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, it’s viewed as a major victory. ANWR is an important breeding ground for the Porcupine caribou herd (named for the nearby Porcupine River), which has inherent cultural, spiritual, and ecological values and provides food for many communities.  

Not all Indigenous communities are celebrating President Biden’s cancellation. Nagruk Harcharek, the President of the Voice of Arctic Iñupiat, has stated that the supposed protection of 13 million acres of their ancestral homelands – where the National Petroleum Reserve is located – flies in the face of their region’s wishes and self-determination. For Harcharek, local petroleum drilling has become a much-relied upon revenue source to help North Slope communities.

The Arctic is warming 4 times faster than the global rate. Arctic sea ice is retreating, shores are eroding, glaciers are shrinking, permafrost is thawing, and insect outbreaks and wildfires are becoming more common in the Arctic. The impacts of these changes have global consequences from more intense storms and heat waves to food insecurity and vector-borne disease. Therefore, the protection of the Arctic isn’t just in the interest of the Gwich’in, Iñupiat and other northern Indigenous communities, but for people far away. 

Image source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons 



The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.

Greenland rate of ice loss
13 million l/s
on average
13 million tonnes/s
on average
Arctic Sea Ice Extent
2,161,499 km²
below 1981-2010 average on 20-Sep-2023
834,555 mi²
below 1981-2010 average on 20-Sep-2023
Arctic Amplification
4 times
faster than global average
Arctic 66N+ Wildfire emissions
24,864.17 megatonnes CO₂e
CO₂e emissions in 2023 so far
Arctic Air Quality (PM2.5)
4.89 microgram per cubic meter
on 21-Sep-2023
Global mean Sea Level
since 1993