American Elephants

It’s Not Nice to Lie About Mother Nature. by The Elephant's Child

There is a lot more to the story of polar bears than seems possible on the surface. Jonathan H. Adler, writing in The New Atlantis in “An Animal to Save the World, explains:

Lawyers at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), an Arizona-based environmental group, spent years looking for what Newsweek termed “an animal to save the world.”  Their criteria: a charismatic animal dependent upon an Arctic ice habitat threatened by global warming so that the animal could be listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  With the right species, the CBD hoped to use the act to drive global warming policy in the United States and abroad.

The Kittlitz’s murrelet didn’t cut it.  Neither did an Arctic spider or a species of Caribbean coral.  The polar bear, though, was another story.  Citing research showing that the polar bear’s “sea ice habitat is literally melting away,” CBD attorneys in February 2005 filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list Ursus maritimus as a “threatened” species.  Under the ESA, a species is “threatened” if it “is likely to become an endangered species within the a future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”  A  species is “endangered” if it is “in danger of extinction.”  According to CBD, the “ongoing and projected” loss of Arctic sea ice, largely due to anthropogenic global warming, posed a readily foreseeable threat to the bear.  “Only by implementing major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in the very near future will a scenario; be possible in which sufficient sea ice remains that the polar bear can persist as a species,” CBD maintained.

Some three years and two lawsuits later, in May 2008, the FWS officially declared polar bears “threatened,” adding them to the nearly 2,000 species listed under the ESA.  Citing record low levels of sea ice in the Arctic and global climate models that predict further declines, Dirk Kempthorne, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior (of which the FWS is a bureau), conceded that “the legal standards under the ESA compel me to list the polar bear as threatened.”

Today there are 20,000 to 25,000 estimated polar bears which many experts believe to be more than in past decades.  All the law requires is the “best” science at the time.  Though counts of bears are fairly iffy, even highly questionable scientific studies will do if that is all that is available.  Sea ice declined significantly over the past few decades, so the U.S. Geological Survey concluded  last year that “projected” losses of sea ice “could” reduce bear populations by two thirds within fifty years.

Despite all the hysteria, sea ice isn’t disappearing. Currently it is measured to be about where it was 29 years ago in 1979, when the hysteria was about the potential for a mini ice age.  The University of Illinois’s Arctic Climate Research Center, which derives information from satellite observations of Northern and Southern hemisphere polar regions, notes that sea ice has been restored to pre-Anthropogenic Global Warming levels.

As we noted here polar bears, as we have learned recently, have been living happily in the Arctic for something like 130,000 years during times when it was much colder and times when it was much warmer.  Computer climate models do a fairly good job of predicting the climate for about seven days in the future, for much longer periods — not so much. The bears seem to adapt just fine.

The problem comes with environmentalists who, wanting to sway public opinion,  have their own agenda, which may have only a passing familiarity with the truth.  The listing makes it much more difficult to get approval for drilling in the Arctic, and complicates the law which allows American sport hunters to import trophies from hunts conducted under Canadian conservation efforts.  Those programs have generated several hundred thousand dollars that goes to protecting the polar bears.  Yes, they use guns.  And polar bears have an unattractive habit of eating seals.

Environmentalists who believe that we can control the natural world and make it more to our liking, have little understanding of the natural world.  Getting little kids to “adopt” a polar bear, and to think that “their” bear is threatened by “pollution” is an appalling abuse, and a kind of indoctrination that used to take place only in totalitarian countries.

There was once a margarine commercial that was created around the line “It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature.” Perhaps we need to bring back the tag line.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham found that 630 million years ago the earth had a warm atmosphere full of carbon dioxide, yet it was completely covered with ice.  Obviously, they say, greenhouse gases could have caused an ice age.  And what do we do about the seals?

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