The Voice for Industry
|May 21, 2008|
It took a few turns of the 24-hour news cycle, but some inconvenient truths are beginning to emerge in the avalanche of news coverage and commentary regarding the decision to list the Alaskan polar bear for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The New York Times editorial page - of all places - concedes the listing "probably should not have to carry the burden of solving global warming," but key environmental groups are now demanding that it should do exactly that.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and the National Resources Defense Council announced May 20 they will sue to use the polar bear listing as a means to require curbs on greenhouse emissions in the Lower 48.
In listing the bear for ESA protection, the Bush administration announced the decision would not be used to dictate national policies regarding climate change, but, as the new legal challenge make clear, the listing opened a Pandora's Box bursting with all kinds of possibilities.
Make no mistake: Alaska's polar bears are impacted by summer reductions in the ice pack because the ice provides an ideal feeding platform for their favored protein source, ringed seals. But, we're a long way from knowing if this constitutes a threat to survival of the species. Polar bears survived earlier periods of significant global warming and many polar bears in Canada live farther south, and spend more time on land, than do their Alaskan cousins.
Canada, which is home to two-thirds of the world's polar bears, has considered endangered species status for its polar bears but is holding off because of the uncertainties and the simple fact that endangered species laws cannot do squat to impact the changing temperatures and wind conditions that are impacting Arctic ice.
But, as shown by the new legal challenges, ESA provides a new legal alternative for pursuing national policies regarding climate change without need for Congressional action, debate or scrutiny. Worse, the lawyers are revving up while our collective conventional wisdom about polar bears appears to be based largely on holiday season Coca Cola commercials.
Stay tuned. The real polar bear show is just beginning.
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