"Threat to Polar Bears: Despite Facts, Doubters Remain"

"In the spring of 2008, U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne -- an appointee of President George W. Bush -- held a conference call with a blue-ribbon panel of scientists to discuss whether polar bears should be placed on the endangered species list. Given the Bush administration's environmental record, many of the 19 scientists were apprehensive about how Kempthorne was going to respond to their report, which warned that projected climatic changes in the Arctic would lead to the probable elimination of two-thirds of the world's 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in much of their range within 45 years.

Kempthorne said he had given serious consideration to the reasons why the U.S. and Canadian experts supported listing polar bears under the Endangered Species Act. He then thanked them for their work and said he could find no flaw in any of the nine studies they had conducted to come to their conclusion.

'My hope is that the projections from these models are wrong, and that sea ice does not recede further,' Kempthorne said a few days later in announcing his decision to list the polar bears as a 'threatened' species. 'But the best science available to me currently says that this is not likely to happen in the next 45 years.”

If ever a set of facts -- and a government action -- underscored the impact of global warming, this was it. But in the months since Kempthorne’s decision, global warming skeptics have insisted that the climate change models used by the panel of experts were wrong, that polar bears have survived warming in the past, and that the species can adapt to a life on land by eating goose eggs and berries."

Ed Struzik reports for Yale Environment 360 July 6, 2009.

http://www.e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2161

Tuesday, July 7, 2009