Well, I guess we all expected it, but it is no less galling to see polar bears listed by the US Government as a threatened species. This despite rising polar bear populations and no evidence that a smaller Arctic ice cap will have a negative effect on the bears. This is, even by admission of its supporters, mainly intended as an open license to sue any one or group over anything that has any element of economic growth. Freeway projects in Arizona, power plants in Florida, desperately needed new refineries in Texas, oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and even a new shopping mall in California can now be held up in court as a danger to polar bears.
Here are a few reactions. From my Princeton classmate Henry Payne:
Once again, my profession — journalism — failed its fundamental duty to report the facts Wednesday as the Interior Department bowed to political pressure from green groups to declare polar bears an threatened species due to global warming. This, despite the fact that bear populations have increased from 5,000–10,000 in the early 1970s to between 20,000 and 25,000 today (during the very period their habitat was allegedly shrinking). This is in part due to concentrated efforts to impose harvesting controls that have allowed this once-overhunted species to recover.
Indeed, Dr. Mitchell Taylor, a bear biologist with the Canadian government, wrote in 2006: “There is no need to panic. Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present.”
This data is readily available in the public record, and yet a review of reports from America’s two leading print sources found nary a mention. The Associated Press completely ignored the bear population data and any critics of the decision. As for The New York Times, reporter Felicity Barringer also ignored the data, but at least alluded to it by quoting M. Reed Hopper of the Pacific Legal Foundation (which is suing the Department of the Interior over the decision) at the very end of her article as saying: “Never before has a thriving species been listed nor should it be.”
From the Wall Street Journal:
Polar bears are not the fragile, vulnerable creatures of liberal iconography. They have thrived in the Arctic for thousands of years, both through periods when their sea-ice habitat was smaller, and larger, than it is now. They will continue to adapt – and the Endangered Species Act can’t make the slightest difference.
Such realities haven’t prevented green showboaters from claiming victory after the Bush Administration designated the polar bear as a "threatened" species yesterday. And it is a kind of victory, though the ruling itself is mostly symbolic – at least for now. However, this is really the triumph of bad legislation over the democratic process.
Although two polar bear subpopulations (Western Hudson Bay and Southern Beaufort Sea) no longer appear to be viable due to reduction in sea ice habitat, polar bears as a species do not appear to be threatened by extinction in the foreseeable future from either a demographic or an ecological perspective.
Current and historical polar bear subpopulation performance demonstrates that viable polar bear subpopulations have persisted and generally increased throughout the current period of climate warming …
The popular notion that polar bears are declining or already expatriated worldwide has been initiated and perpetuated by environmental organizations and individuals who apparently believe that current subpopulation numbers and trends are an insufficient basis for an appropriate status determination. … Anecdotal information, although useful and interesting, is not equivalent to scientific information based on valid statistical analysis of sample data.
Let’s just all ignore the Canadian government study that showed that polar bear population is up over the last two decades.
Let’s also ignore the fact that arctic sea ice grew faster in 2008 than ever before : 58,000 square miles of sea ice per day, for 10 days straight.
“Because polar bears are vulnerable to this loss of habitat, they are, in my judgment, likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future – in this case 45 years,” Kempthorne said at a news conference in Washington.
So if short term, potentially random variations are taken as a trend, and if we extend that trend out half a century, then polar bears are “likely” to become endangered … and therefore they are declared endangered now
Now consider this — taken but a miniscule regulatory step further, a family motoring about in an SUV in Texas could be cited not only for polluting under the Clean Air Act, but as their “pollution” has been regulated as a global warming contributor, they could be further fined under the Endangered Species Act for harming the protected polar bear.Did I mention that penalties for such ESA transgressions can be a maximum fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for one year, or both — per violation?