In this June 1, 2001, file photo, caribou graze in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Credit: File / AP

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What the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes clear is that we can’t afford to continue to put short-term gain above the long-term health and prosperity of our planet. Our days of burning fossil fuels must come to an end as soon as possible, and one step Congress should take right now is to make the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge off-limits to the dirty business of oil and gas drilling.

In 2017, Congress cut taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals at a cost of some $1.9 trillion. To make up for part of this huge deficit, Congress mandated two oil and gas lease sales in the refuge, claiming that would generate $1 billion in revenue for the federal government. It seemed like a lose-lose situation to me.

When the first lease sale took place in the final days of the Trump administration in 2021, it raised a mere $14.4 million, about half of which goes to the state of Alaska, and a tiny fraction of the amount needed to make a dent in the deficit. This seriously paltry sum comes nowhere remotely near offsetting the adverse impact on Indigenous Gwich’in people and countless species of wildlife in this remote and special place.

We must break our addiction to fossil fuels before it is too late. And we must stop the destruction of public lands, especially for a relatively few barrels of oil. Congress must vote to permanently protect the refuge.

Michael Catania