Victory of Ignorance

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.

From the SPPI via Q&O:

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.

From TJIC:

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

From Marc Sheppard:

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?
  • Captain Obviousness

    Liberal response to this post:

    “Why do you hate polar bears so much?”

  • mbabbitt

    Any truly sensible person should be outraged and offended by this decision, based not on science or observation but purely to appease enrironmental religious zealots.

  • Fred from Canuckistan . . .

    About time to launch a big lawsuit against Al Gore the next time he goes off on one his private jet junkets . . just think of the polar bear cubs he is murdering.

    While the law suit season prevails, best to go after all the Hollywood Hypocrites and their private jets.

    Unintended can consequences work two ways.

  • Thanks for the heads-up, Warren. We at Oynklent Green have now decided to take the fateful step of adding US trial lawyers to the list of official feedstocks for our patented pyrolysis biodiesel production plant. Trial lawyers will now officially be joining corrupt politicians as official feedstocks.

    Formerly doomed to make only mischief, thanks to Oynklent Green they can finally do some good.

    “Energy is People!”

  • coveman

    By crying wolf where no wolf existed, the Green movement has just considerably weakened the Endangered Species Act.

    In the future, courts that lean towards business and oil interests may take environmentalist claims of “threatened” with a grain of salt and rule against TRULY threatened species.

  • Sun Tzu

    Why Do We Care If Polar Bears Become Extinct?
    This is not any sort of revelation: Polar bears declared a threatened species , but it does raise the question: Why do we care? By some estimates, 90% of all species that once existed are now extinct and new species are always taking their place. For the species that’s going to become extinct, for whatever reason, extinction is the end of it. However, for the species that remain, is the extinction of another species good or bad? When Europeans first colonized North America, there was an estimated five (5) billion Passenger Pigeons alive and well in North America. In 1914, they were extinct. Passenger Pigeons didn’t live in little groups, but huge flocks that required extraordinary quantities of hardwood forests for them to feed, breed and survive. Deforestation to build homes, create farmland and over hunting for cheap food decimated their population. The westward drive to grow the United States in the 1800s and early 1900s was incompatible with the needs of the Passenger Pigeon and they literally could not survive in the new North America being carved out by the U.S. economy. The interesting thing about the Passenger Pigeon was the impact its extinction had on another species—man. That impact was essentially none. Man continued to find ways to feed himself through agriculture and other technologies and the United States and its citizens continued to prosper from the early 20th century till today. Whether or not Polar Bears become extinct because of Global Climate Change or other reasons, we need to address the larger question of: Do we care and why? One of the ways a nation, its citizens and the global community can answer that question is addressed by John A. Warden III in Thinking Strategically About Global Climate Change. He asks some interesting biodiversity questions in his post to include How Many Species Is the Right Number and Which Ones?

  • Imposter:

    I knew Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu was a friend of mine. Sun Tzu was a wise man who spoke the truth. You are no Sun Tzu.

  • jep, Kansas USA

    Since we’re trying to stop climate change, what is the proper climate? Are we trying to preserve the climate we have now or are we trying to go back to the climate of the 1970’s?

    Climate is controlled by many factors, such as plate tectonics and volcanic activity. The sun’s output is not constant and the earth’s orbit is not only elliptical, but irregular. All of these things are beyond our control. We can control our emissions, but it remains to be conclusively proven that human emissions of greenhouse gases are a primary factor in climate change. Certainly, all past climate change happened without any help from human civilization.

    But what about the evidence that shows human-induced climate change? Evidence is not proof. For a theory (or in this case, an hypothesis) to be valid, there must be no contradictory evidence. Unfortunately for AGW enthusiasts, natural factors cannot be conclusively ruled out for the recent climate change.

    Einstein is famously quoted as saying “One new fact destroys your consensus” — or maybe I just made that up. Regardless of the origins, it’s still true.

  • It’s at times like these I’m truly glad my youngest is doing well at law school. Lawsuits over half baked environmental legislation like this are going to keep my entire extended family in luxury until even my childrens great-grandchildren are old and grey. Whoopee!

  • Kent Gatewood

    So, how are the two American populations of Polar Bears doing? Is the 25K only North American whites? How many formerly soviet white bears are there?

  • Mike Kelley

    My condolences to you. It must be painful admitting to having a journalist as a friend.

  • Kent,

    The 25K seems to be a total for all polar regions. About 60% live in Canada. See: http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/bear-facts/ The biggest threat to polar bears is hunting, they were hunted down to a population of about 5,000 or so in the 70s and early 80s.

    Will we now expect the government to list other species with increasing populations as threatened or endangered? Its a real mixed message. Observation says the bears, on the whole, are doing pretty well, but we think they might, someday be in trouble, based on GCM results.

    There is not currently enough known to say that those populations that are declining haven’t just reached the carrying capacity of their local environment. At some point population cycles limit upward population growth. Predator/prey cycles contribute. Unfortunately we now see only one influence on everything – global warming (or climate change if you like.)

  • Kent Gatewood

    jnicklin,

    thank you very much,

    Kent

  • No problem Kent. There are more sites that can give you info on the polar bears.

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/2008/04/25/species-risk.html is a fairly balanced report, providing information that some populations are increasing and some decreasing while others are stable. The World Wildlife Fund (Canada) has a chart that indicates that the bears are in dire straights with the best news that some are just stable.

    The fact that polar bears can survive in Ontario (the northern-most part of that province is nowhere near the artic or summer ice) would indicate that they are fairly robust in climate tolerance. The bears also seem to be doing well enough to receive visitors in Churchill, Manitoba where they have an open sea during the summer as well as a thriving eco-tourism industry featuring the white ursids.

    At any rate, you have to read carefully and from many sites to piece together a picture.

  • I was just looking at some of the Polar Bear habitats on Google Earth. They are now using 2008 imagry, its early May and there is no ice shown, anywhere in the Artcic Ocean. It must be really hot up there. Or maybe Google’s start shareholder, Al Gore, had them airbrush it out. I’m pretty sure the ice is still there, it just left some Manotoba lakes last weekend.

  • Mesa Econoguy

    Polar Bears need sunny vacations, too…..

  • Mesa Econoguy

    The interesting thing about the Passenger Pigeon was the impact its extinction had on another species—man. That impact was essentially none.
    Posted by: Sun Tzu

    Ah yes, but what about the passenger polar bear?

    Or the courier sloth? Or the Maitre D’ocelot?

    Shame….

  • Mike

    I like Lomborg’s take on this. If they’re so threatened, stop hunting them.

  • Tony Edwards

    One small point that needs to be continually hammered home is that a Polar Bear is a grizzly bear in a white fur coat. They weigh many hundred pounds, stand up to seven feet tall, have claws bigger than most people’s fingers and teeth to match. Their favourite way of eating a meal is to chew and rip a seal into suitable size chunks which they can gulp down, while the snow or ice around them turns red.
    Not my favourite fuzzy pet.
    It’s also worth mentioning that, while the watermelons are blaming man for thousands of extinctions per year, we have been trying for millennia to drive ants, cockroaches, mice, rats, mosquitoes, lawyers, politicians priests and sundry other pests to extinction, but have failed dismally. As extinctioneers, we suck.