A bid to have the legal status of polar bears changed from “threatened” to “endangered” has failed. The Forest and Wildlife Service said they believe polar bears are only threatened because there are at least 20,000 of them, but they seem to contradict themselves by admitting, “The Service concluded that the incremental loss of sea ice habitat over time would limit the ability of polar bears to satisfy essential life-history requirements and would result in the bears likely being in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future.” (Source: USFWS)
What exactly are “essential life-history requirements”? Are they simply unwilling to even use plain language to communicate with the public that if polar bear habitat continues to be lost they will be in danger of going extinct? They seem to be playing word games to cover up the fact that polar bears are already endangered by the loss of sea ice, which they need to survive. Sea ice is melting due to climate change, but Alaska’s oil industry seems to have the upper hand in the battle to control natural resources there.
“The Obama administration delivered a lump of coal to the polar bear for Christmas. Once again President Obamaís Interior Department has sacrificed sound science for political expediency, and the polar bear will suffer as a result,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Centerís Climate Law Institute. She was also the lead author on the original lawsuit in 2005 which led to the polar bear getting reviewed for any legal protection, though it was stopped at “threatened” by the government. (Source: Climatesciencewatch.org) Polar bears were just designated “threatened” in 2008, only because of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2005. In other words, if that non-profit organization hadn’t started the ball rolling, the government would likely not even have listed polar bears as threatened, even though they are dying because of habitat loss.
If the Forest and Wildlife Service refuses to protect the polar bear as endangered until it is nearly extinct, and admits that scenario is likely to take place, what is the point of† having the Endangered Species Act?
During the Bush Administration, an exemption was put into the Endangered Species Act which allows threats outside the polar bear’s habitat to not be disrupted, threats such as the release of mercury by industry, or climate change causing carbon emissions. The Obama administration has upheld this exemption, and Secretary of the Interior Salazaar has maintained the Bush administration’s attitude towards polar bears.
Recently scientific research stated again that reducing carbon emissions can save the polar bears, and not reducing carbon emissions will probably cause them to die off completely. “Scientists have been warning for some time that the melting of sea ice where polar bears hunt was jeopardizing their existence. In 2007 a group of federal scientists led by Steven C. Amstrup, an emeritus researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey, projected that if greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise as projected, only one-third of the world’s 22,000 polar bears might be left by 2050, and all of them could be gone by the end of the century.” (Source: Washingtonpost.com)
As previously reported on Care2, a seventeen year-old high school student understands these issues more clearly than the federal government, and has actually taken steps to reduce carbon emissions to save polar bears by creating a website where you can document your personal carbon output and work on reducing it.
Image Credit: Alan Wilson