Aug 25

The Moral Call for an Immediate Ban on Oil Drilling

Most Honourable Prime Minister Minnis, Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and candidates for office,
As we know you agree, we have a moral imperative to act on climate change, to preserve the livelihoods of all Bahamian citizens, and to protect the oceans that sustain us and nurture our economy. There is no logical path to effective climate action that simultaneously allows for, or even flirts with, oil development in our waters. We must ban oil drilling now.

This month, the leaders of the nations of Planet Earth received dire warnings from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their 6th Assessment Report. This report differs from past warnings in that there is now direct evidence of severe climate change in all regions of the globe, and these are expected to get dramatically worse in the coming decades. The report lays out several paths and the imperative to reduce emissions is clear.  The Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres described it as “Code Red for Humanity”. Link :

We as a nation, and you as leaders, have a duty to act in ways that safeguard our future. And the future well-being of The Bahamas is directly tied to the reduction of global carbon emissions in the next decade and in the next decades thereafter until we reduce global temperatures to safe levels. As Bahamians we have a moral imperative to lead this charge, as our people will be the recipients of some of the worst results if society fails in this quest. We hold the future of all Bahamians in our actions. We must convert our economy to a sustainable energy economy.  We must work to bring clean, sustainable renewable energy sources to our islands. But we have an even greater responsibility to stop production of dirty energy from our shores and surrounding waters. We can do this by permanently banning oil drilling, which will prevent emissions of potent greenhouse gasses such as methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

The IPCC Report includes dire warnings of triggering dangerous feedback loops if we fail to bring temperatures down quickly. These include 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, we call on the Government of the Bahamas to approve and implement an immediate ban on offshore oil drilling. Beyond a moral imperative, the cessation of fossil fuel development around the world is an absolute necessity, to secure any hope of meeting any available paths to limit climate change to +1.5˚ or even +2.0˚. Some oil will still be pumped in the near term, and some fields will need to shut down, but if new oil sources are found and developed, it’s game-over, as once the oil is out of the ground it will eventually become part of the atmosphere.
The ideal moment to do so is now, as there are currently no active oil licenses in The Bahamas.

The recent licenses have expired and were not considered for renewal due to non-payment of the appropriate license fees, according to government spokespeople. The government should heed the clear warnings of the IPCC scientists and permanently ban oil drilling now. This is the time to act. Our survival depends on it.

We would have enough reasons to oppose oil drilling based on risks to our economy, our tourism and fishing industries, and our immediate safety.  We could ban all drilling on the basis of a catastrophic oil spill risk, such as what occurred in the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Disaster. We could ban drilling based on 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, as the math is quite clear.  Atmospheric carbon emissions from the purported oil field size in the former Southern Licenses are said to be 700 million to 1.44 billion barrels of oil, according to the previous license holders.  On the low side, total emissions (using US-EPA estimates) from this oil, if successfully extracted, refined and burned, would exceed the entire national carbon footprints of The Bahamas, and 18 other small island states in the Caribbean, over twenty years (please see Table 1 below).  
We have a responsibility as a signatory under the 2015 Paris Accords to heed the science and reduce our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).  But 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? 
You are literally flirting with an enemy of all humanity by potentially leaving the door open, even a crack, for renewed oil drilling. 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 for Bahamian leaders to stand on the right side of history and unequivocally ban oil drilling in our waters now, and into the future.  


The Full IPCC Scientific Report (13,000 pages) is available online.

A shorter IPCC Summary for Policymakers (42 pages) is also available along with Headline Statements (2 Pages).

Table 1: Estimated Carbon Emissions, The Bahamas + 18 Caribbean Island States

CountryPopulation (est)Carbon footprint, tonnes/per capitatotal carbon footprint (tonnes CO2e)yearstotal
The Bahamas380,0007.72,926,0002058,520,000
Antigua and Barbuda96,2866.2596,9732011,939,464
Sint Maarten40,73319.5794,2942015,885,870
Saint Martin38,0025.81125*220,839204,416,782
Turks & Caicos38,1911.7968,362201,367,238
Cayman Is65,8138.1533,0852010,661,706
St Kitts and Nevis52,4414.4230,740204,614,808
St Lucia182,7902.1383,859207,677,180
Grenada 112,0032.7302,408206,048,162
St Vincent110,5891.7188,001203,760,026
TOTAL2,362,6085.81125 (average) 14,848,706 tonnes20296,974,126 tonnes
*No carbon footprint available for Saint Martin (using regional average in place)

Table 2: Estimated Carbon Emissions from former “Southern Licenses” The Bahamas

Challenger Energy Group (BPC) estimates of oilfield sizeEst size of reserves (bbl)EPA Est C02 impact, tonnes/bbl
BPC S. BAHAMAS  LOW ESTIMATE700,000,000.000.43301,000,000
BPC S. BAHAMAS  HIGH ESTIMATE1,440,000,000.000.43619,200,000

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