Wednesday, December 27, 2006

U.S. Resistance Begins To Melt

Finally, after endless criticism, compelling scientific evidence, and tortuous rhetorical avoidance, the administration of Bush II has admitted not only that global climate change is occurring and that greenhouse gases are involved, but that its implications are indeed dire - for polar bears at least. Today, no lesser presidential spokesman than the Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, announced that
we are concerned the polar bears’ habitat may literally be melting...Based on current analysis, there are concerns about the effect of receding sea ice on polar bear populations, I am directing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to aggressively work with the public and the scientific community over the next year to broaden our understanding of what is happening with the species. This information will be vital to the ultimate decision on whether the species should be listed.
The Department of Interior's proposed new rule regarding Polar Bears is based, at least in part, on a recognition that the Arctic ice is melting almost as fast as the Wicked Witch of the West:
Scientific observations have revealed a decline in late summer Arctic sea ice to the extent of 7.7 percent per decade and in the perennial sea ice area of 9.8 percent per decade since 1978. Observations have likewise shown a thinning of the Arctic sea ice of 32 percent from the 1960s and 1970s to the 1990s in some local areas.
Of course, no Federal statement would be complete without a leavening of doublespeak. The Department of Interior's reasoning for considering listing the Polar Bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, while recognizing both the anti-ursine effects of climate change and "the role of greenhouse gases in climate change", "does not include a scientific analysis of the causes of climate change [which is] beyond the scope of the Endangered Species Act review process."

This newfound worry about global climate change, and its adverse effects on Polar Bears, may represent a trial balloon along the path toward Federal action to reduce anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. The wait for such a policy change has been almost too long to bear.

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