Policy Experts Reject Proposal to List Polar Bears as Threatened

Published December 27, 2006

(Chicago, Illinois – December 27, 2006) U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne proposed today that polar bears be listed as a “threatened” species, not because their populations are currently in decline but because global warming may threaten them in the future.

Kempthorne’s proposal comes in response to a lawsuit filed by environmental groups against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A final decision on the listing will be made in December 2007, after a 12-month period of public comment and scientific review.

Environmental policy experts contacted by The Heartland Institute were critical of the plan. All can be reached for further comment by email or phone at the contact information provide below. For more information about The Heartland Institute, contact Michael Van Winkle at 312/377-4000, email [email protected].

James M. Taylor
Managing Editor, Environment & Climate News
Senior Fellow, The Heartland Institute
[email protected]

“The proposed listing of polar bears as a threatened species demonstrates the absurd lengths to which environmental activists will go regarding their global warming obsession.

“Polar bear populations are healthy and are not declining, as even today’s Associated Press article on the topic acknowledges. The Greenland ice cap is in rough balance, the Antarctic ice cap is growing, and yet environmental activists seek to speculate that polar bears are in imminent danger of extinction, even though their numbers are strong.

“Many times in recent history Arctic temperatures have been warmer than they are today. Temperatures were warmer 800 years ago during the Medieval Climate Optimum and 2,000 years ago during the Roman Climate Optimum. If polar bears did not go extinct then, when temperatures were warmer, how are they in imminent danger of extinction now, when temperatures are cooler and polar bear numbers are not declining?

“Moreover, scientists with the Russian Academy of Sciences report temperatures will begin cooling within a decade and will resemble Little Ice Age conditions around mid-century as the sun enters a cycle that has always been associated with global cooling here on Earth.

“None of this, of course, matters to the activist groups who are pressuring for polar bears to be listed as a threatened species. They seek not to protect polar bears, but to force the U.S. government to require its citizens to reduce their energy consumption and emissions of carbon dioxide.

“Urging scientifically unjustified endangered species listings as a deceitful means to require massive changes in the U.S. way of life is ethically repugnant. Activist groups should be required to debate the scientific facts and work through Congress to address the issue, rather than looking for underhanded ways to have unelected and hand-picked district court judges make such important societal decisions for all of us.”

Chris Horner
Senior Fellow specializing in legal-climate issues
Competitive Enterprise Institute
[email protected]

“This goes to show that, as drinking impairs one’s ability to drive, the search for a legacy impairs every other sense of the political appointee.

“In reality, we might inquire where to draw the line. Let’s just call it the ‘cute species list,’ or just ‘species list’–if it makes sense to list thriving species on the basis not just of a theory, but a hypothesis about what might happen under said theory … and against the evidence of how they respond to warming.

“In this case, the truly thriving bear populations are found in the warming Arctic areas, while polar bears found in cooling areas are suffering, unable to find food (if not, as Al Gore suggests in his movie, unable to swim).

“Maybe we should seek to list some warm-weather beast. Or the sober administrative appointee, increasingly threatened by the encroachment of the time to leave office.”

Nicole Haynes McCoy, Ph.D.
Department of Environment and Society
College of Natural Resources
Utah State University
[email protected]

“If conservative elected officials are serious about getting the Endangered Species Act reformed, listing the polar bear is a great way to incentivize the process.

“The sacrifices that will be required of the American public to reduce greenhouse gases in order to protect polar bear habitat will bring key problems of the ESA to the forefront of the American consciousness. Once you start asking Americans to pay more for power, transportation, and food to maybe save a species that might be in decline, you are asking for trouble.”