Coalition Reacts to UN Climate Report, Renews call for Nationwide Ban on Oil Drilling in The Bahamas

Coalition Reacts to UN Climate Report, Renews call for Nationwide Ban on Oil Drilling in The Bahamas

By: Waterkeeper Alliance

Ocean view of the Bahamas
BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock
IPCC 6th Report: Scientists articulate dire warnings and extreme costs of societal inaction

The Our Islands Our Future coalition today renewed its call for a nationwide permanent ban on oil drilling in The Bahamas, through an online statement that was also sent to the officials in the Government of The Bahamas, including Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis. In its statement, the coalition cited dire warnings in the recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report, which was released in-part on Monday, August 9. The coalition directly tied the future well-being of The Bahamas to decisions the country makes regarding carbon emissions and especially oil drilling, which when extracted, refined, and eventually burned releases potent greenhouse gases such as methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

The IPCC Working Group 1 Report, The Physical Science Basis, which focused on an assessment of increasing impacts, detailed how severe climate change impacts are already impacting every region of the globe. Working Groups 2 and 3 Reports are expected early next year and will bring additional focus on societal actions to prevent rapid changes in atmospheric carbon, and climate adaptation strategies. However, the overarching conclusion is already clear: Society must reduce emissions drastically in the next decade to avoid catastrophic impacts by the end of the century.

The IPCC was set up to advise world governments and policy makers on the scientific realities of climate change and to assess existing science for useful trends to inform policy decisions, such as oil drilling. This newest report which reflects the work of 234 scientists, was a synthesis of 13,000 peer-reviewed climate studies. This is the 6th iteration of the IPCC Report, the last one occurring in 2014. The newest one however reflects both increased scientific certainty and worsening impacts.

“The difference with this report as compared to earlier versions is that the world’s leading climate scientists are now sounding the alarm bells louder than ever before,” said Rashema Ingraham of Waterkeepers Bahamas, a coalition member. “Increasing evidence shows that extreme weather events such as Hurricane Dorian which devastated our islands are in fact attributable to climate change and that human actions are driving this.”

“The global goal of limiting climate change to 1.5˚C is slipping away. The report makes clear that we need to act quickly to reduce emissions across ALL sectors,” said Chris Wilke of Waterkeeper Alliance, a coalition member. “We have a narrow window in which to limit emissions and begin to bring temperatures down. If we fail to do this, we will lose the opportunity to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.”

The coalition cited the IPCC Report’s warnings of triggering dangerous feedback loops, such as warming temperatures that could melt arctic permafrost, that in turn would unleash even more warming, likely making a human-engineered recovery nearly impossible.  For this reason, the coalition advised the government of the Bahamas to implement an immediate ban on offshore drilling.

“There is no carbon maths or twisted logic that can rescue The Bahamas from essentially sealing its own fate if it allows oil drilling in its waters,” stated Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, of BREEF, a coalition member. “As a low-lying island archipelago, we know that we are on the frontline of the climate emergency, and that the rapid change that we are now experiencing, if left unchecked, will permanently alter our shores, making large areas uninhabitable, and having devastating impacts on the pristine waters and sea life on which we all depend as a nation.”

With the statement published on its website today, the coalition declared the “absolute necessity” of permanently banning oil drilling, indicating that any available paths to limit 1.5˚ or even 2.0˚, does not include the development of new oil and gas fields such as those proposed by Challenger Energy Group (CEG – formerly BPC), the beleaguered oil developer that failed to locate commercial quantities of oil in its expired Southern Licenses and so-called Perseverance #1 well earlier this year.

“Despite their recent misstatements to shareholders and Bahamas press, there are no active oil exploration licenses in The Bahamas.” The coalition’s statement said. “The government should heed the clear warnings of the IPCC and permanently ban oil drilling. The Licenses have expired and were not considered for renewal due to non-payment of the appropriate license fees, according to government spokespeople,” adding: “This is the time to act. Our survival depends on it.”

The Coalition Statement was published online via its website and transmitted to the Government via email.

The coalition emphasized the underlying maths: “We would have enough reasons to oppose oil drilling based on risks to our economy, our tourism and fishing industries, and our immediate safety.”  the group stated. “We could ban all drilling on the basis of a catastrophic oil spill risk, the inevitable disruption to the seafloor, nearby marine protected areas and fishing grounds, or risks to our tourism-based economy. But the climate crisis may trump them all.” The coalition pointed out that the atmospheric carbon emissions from the purported oil reserve size (700 million to 1.44 billion barrels of oil, according to CEG) on the low side, would exceed the combined national carbon footprint of The Bahamas and 18 other small island states in the Caribbean over twenty years.  A national carbon footprint is generally considered to be the sum of all human-caused carbon emissions of a nation. This number is often divided by the overall population to determine an average carbon footprint per person.

“We have a responsibility as a signer under the Paris Accords to heed the science and reduce our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC),” the group continued. “How can we say we’ll do so with a straight face, if we simultaneously allow new oil development of an amount that would equal many times that?”

The coalition closed with a strong statement for the current or any future government of The Bahamas. “You are essentially flirting with an enemy of humanity by potentially leaving the door open, even a crack, for renewed oil drilling. And, in fairness, the oil companies also need a clear message from you, after 15 years of back and forth. It’s time to tell them NO. It’s time to unequivocally ban oil drilling in our waters, now and into the future.”

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