Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Odd blog

A good example of how global warming speculation quickly becomes accepted fact. This post showed up briefly today at NEI Nuclear Notes, then disappeared. I copied it from my RSS feed reader.

"They Eat People"

No, not zombies, which as far as we can tell, are not affected by changes in climate, but polar bears. The plight - or not - of the polar bear due to global warming - or not - has tied a "not" around government; it cannot effectively move one way or another because many potent forces have gained enough authority to assert their authority to say they are right - or not - about issues that have far reaching implications - or not.

In 2006, scientists for the United States Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service, published a document through the USGS called Polar Bear Population Status in the Southern Beaufort Sea. In it, the authors found a marked decrease in the polar bear population in that area. One of its authors, Eric Regehr, went further:

Eric Regehr, a UW Ph.D. candidate in zoology and physiology and United States Geological Survey (USGS) employee, has spent the last two years analyzing polar bear data collected by the Canadian Wildlife Service in Canada's western Hudson Bay.

"These data provide evidence for a direct linkage between reduced sea ice coverage, presumably caused by climate change, and decreased polar bear survival in western Hudson Bay," Regehr says in the current edition of UWyo magazine.

That "presumably" is important, as issues of climate change are likely outside Regehr's domain. Regardless, the Bush administration has hesitated in adding polar bears to the the endangered species list and has hesitated further in explaining why to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:

The deadline for a decision on listing Alaska's polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act was Jan. 9. Conservation groups petitioned to list polar bears as threatened more than three years ago because their habitat, sea ice, is shrinking from global warming, many scientists say.

Boxer said [Interior Secretery Dirk] Kempthorne and other administration officials were "ducking their responsibility to the American people" by delaying a decision on the bears — and then failing to appear at a hearing to explain why.

Note that Regehr's "presumably" is now taken as a given, supported by unnamed "many scientists." Guessing why Kempthorne did not appear might make a fun game but would be pure supposition - someone from Interior will weigh in sooner or later - but it provides an opening for other interested parties to have a say.

Senator John Barasso from Wyoming wrote this for The Hill's congressional blog:

Attempts to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) during an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing is a hijacking of the Endangered Species Act for political purposes. It is not just about the polar bear.

Some claim that global warming is leading to the demise of polar bears. If the polar bear is listed as threatened, anything thought to contribute to global warming could be shut down — even in Wyoming.

We are all concerned about protecting the environment. If the polar bear is listed, the ESA will become a climate change law.

There's more but the central point seems to be that whether the polar bear is threatened or not, declaring it threatened will have unintended consequences: no longer will there be backyard barbeques because a polar bear cub is slipping off an ice ledge.

It's a fairly grotesque warping of the Endangered Species Act, since it is hard to imagine a court using polar bear protection to shut down carbon emitting entities; the economic consequences would be too severe.

Additionally, the EPA has not committed itself to allowing severe economic consequences to follow from efforts to contain emissions - see its refusal to grant California a waiver to allow the state to regulate auto emissions more stringently than the federal government for an example.

EPA may or may not become more activist one way or another - the upcoming elections will doubtless influence its future direction. But for now, Barasso seems stuck - able to accept that the polar bear fits the criteria of an endangered species, unable to act on it due to its implications for the nation's industries and economic well-being.

But all this could be put aside if one paid attention to CNN commentator Glenn Beck, who, talking with (or, on the evidence, at) Senator James Inhofe, said:

They eat people! For the love of Pete, they’re big, angry bears. They eat people. Not that I say we go out and kill all of them, but I mean, it doesn’t seem to be a problem here. Senator, I can’t take the — I can’t take the lies anymore.

So there it is. Interior should leave off the endangered species list any animal that eats people.

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