The seas provide half of our oxygen, and food for a billion people. Let’s give them the protection they deserve.

Under the restless surface of our seas, hundreds of miles from land, there’s a world of giants and hunters; ancient lifeforms and lost cities.

These waters beyond national borders are home to creatures even more varied than in the tropical rainforests. They contain the highest and longest mountain range anywhere on our planet, and trenches deep enough to hold Mount Everest. They’re the highways for whales, turtles, albatross and tuna on their cross-planet migrations.

The oceans produce half of our oxygen

The oceans produce half of our oxygen, and food for a billion people. And because they soak up huge amounts of carbon dioxide, they’re also one of our best defenses against climate change. Our fate is bound to the fate of our oceans. If they don’t make it, we don’t either.
If the rescue plan goes ahead, it’ll be one of the biggest conservation efforts in human history, creating millions of square kilometers of new protected areas.

Here’s the problem: at the moment, there’s no way to create new sanctuaries outside countries’ national waters. We can’t protect these huge areas of the ocean without an international agreement on how this protection would work.

Governments have started work on a UN Ocean Treaty, and if they get it right it’ll give us the tools we need to make these sanctuaries happen.

Obama Protects the Arctic Ocean

Building on this momentum, thousands of people called on President Obama to use his legal authority to make the U.S. Arctic Ocean off limits from future oil drilling. In late 2016, Obama took action to permanently protect all of the Chukchi Sea and the vast majority of the Beaufort Sea — as well as a number of biologically important undersea canyons in the Atlantic.This was a big victory for the people-powered climate movement, signalling that the relentless expansion of the oil industry into new areas was finally at an end.But then Trump happened.

Ocean Sanctuaries Work

Trump came into office calling climate change a hoax and giving handouts to dirty energy companies. His plan to open up nearly every U.S. coastline to more oil and gas drilling was extremely unpopular, and in the case of the Arctic Ocean, it outright ignored the fact that Obama had already ruled out future leasing there.

Trump’s new offshore oil plan called for lease sales in the Beaufort Sea starting in 2019 and the Chukchi Sea in 2020. In response, Greenpeace joined with other groups in a lawsuit to challenge the plan in court. Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council led the litigation, representing Greenpeace along with Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, League of Conservation Voters, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Society.

The key issue was that when Congress enacted the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), it gave the president authority to withdraw areas from oil and gas leasing, but made no mention of revoking previous withdrawals.

That’s an act that only Congress itself can take. Judge Sharon Gleason agreed with this analysis, and as she stated in her ruling, Obama’s withdrawals “will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress.” The government may appeal this ruling, but for now this is a big victory for the climate.

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