Alaska has a problem.
Located near the Arctic, it is one of the first states to experience climate change head on. Temperatures are rising there faster than most other states, burning through an amazing 5 million acres of forest this summer. Rising seas are engulfing villages, forcing thousands of people to move inland.
How does Alaska Governor Bill Walker plan to cope with this? Incredibly, by drilling for more oil, especially in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The problem is, Alaska is short on funds just when coping with climate change is becoming an expensive priority. That’s because the state relies on oil royalties for 90% of its income (it doesn’t have an income or sales tax), and with oil prices so low, that doesn’t amount to much.
It’s not that he denies climate change. "We have villages that are washing away because of changes in the climate," he told BBC. About a dozen villages are in the same situation as Kivalina, he says. And that’s just the beginning.
Oil interests have had their sights on the Refuge for decades – one of the last intact ecosystems in the US, and the site of the last great caribou migration. President Obama urged Congress to permanently protect it with a Wilderness designation, but that’s gone nowhere with the Republican majority, many of which want to sell off federal public lands altogether.
"The Coastal Plain is one of the few remaining places in the country as pristine today as it was when the oldest Alaska Native communities first set eyes on it, is too precious to put at risk," said President Obama.
But that’s what happens when you are completely addicted to oil.