The Times December 28, 2006
Plight of the polar bear forces Bush to recognise climate threat
Tim Reid in Washington
In a stark warning this year, scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre said that the total Arctic ice cover had melted back to the lowest level in modern records, and that if melting rates continued apace the summertime Arctic could be ice-free within 80 years.
Last year three environmental groups sued the US Government to force it to review the status of the polar bear. Andrew Wetzler, a lawyer for one of them, the Natural Resources Defence Council, said: “It’s such a loud recognition that global warming is real. It is rapidly threatening the polar bear and, in fact, an entire ecosystem with utter destruction.”
America has come under increasing pressure to take action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But Mr Bush, who refuses to recognise the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, has balked at setting any mandatory environmental limits on US industries.
After proposing the polar bear for threatened status, the US Interior Department will allow 90 days of public comment on the proposal. If the animal is then added to the endangered species list, all US government agencies will be obliged by law to consider if their actions are adding to global warming.
“This is a victory for the polar bear, and all wildlife threatened by global warming,” Kassie Siegel, a lawyer for the Centre for Biological Diversity, said. “There is still time to save polar bears, but we must reduce greenhouse gas pollution immediately.”
Govt. Sees Polar Bears As 'Threatened'
By JOHN HEILPRIN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 27, 2006; 9:25 PM
WASHINGTON -- Polar bears are in jeopardy and need stronger government protection because of melting Arctic sea ice related to global warming, the Bush administration said Wednesday.
The Interior Department cites thinning sea ice as the big problem; outside the government, other scientists studying the issue say pollution, overhunting, development and even tourism also may be factors. Greenland and Norway have the most polar bears, while a quarter of them live mainly in Alaska and travel to Canada and Russia.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne on Wednesday proposed listing polar bears as a "threatened" species on the government list of imperiled species. The "endangered" category is reserved for species more likely to become extinct.
"Polar bears are one of nature's ultimate survivors, able to live and thrive in one of the world's harshest environments," Kempthorne said. "But we are concerned the polar bear's habitat may literally be melting."
A final decision on whether to add the polar bears to the list is a year away, after the government finishes more studies.
Such a decision would require all federal agencies to ensure that anything they authorize that might affect polar bears will not jeopardize their survival or the sea ice where they live. That could include oil and gas exploration, commercial shipping or even releases of toxic contaminants or climate-affecting pollution.
Kempthorne, however, said his department's studies indicate that coastal and offshore oil and gas exploration _ heavily promoted by the Bush administration, particularly in Alaska _ shouldn't be curtailed.
"It's very clear that the oil and gas activity in that area does not pose a threat to the polar bears," he said.
On March 16, 2006, Kempthorne was nominated by President George W. Bush to replace Gale Norton as the 49th Secretary of the Interior. On May 10, 2006, Kempthorne's nomination was approved by voice vote by the United States Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Kempthorne should be replaced by a Democrat who cares about the environment and will speak the truth. He was installed by Dubya, and has followed in the footsteps of Gail Norton, who was also nominated by Dubya. Norton is an ideological extremist who worked for two decades to dismantle the very laws the Interior Department is sworn to uphold. Before becoming Interior Secretary, she espoused the "right to pollute" and other extreme positions, including support of laws allowing polluters to police themselves. As Colorado attorney general, she was hostile to environmental protection