A federal judge today upheld the George W. Bush administration’s decision to list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The ruling is a blow to environmental groups that wanted the bear listed as endangered, thereby giving it more protections, and industry groups and others that don’t want it listed at all.
The original Bush decision meant listing the polar bear as “threatened” because of its melting polar sea ice habitat, but then doing nothing to actually protect that polar habitat from its primary threat, greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
As I wrote at the time, the Department of Interior suffers from a rare form of bipolar disorder called bye-polar disorder. On the one hand, then DOI Secretary Kempthorne explicitly wanted “to allow continuation of vital energy production in Alaska,” while on the other hand the DOI noted:
- The polar bears need sea ice for feeding.
- The sea ice is being destroyed by human-caused emissions, faster than the models had predicted.
- Thus, the polar bear is endangered.
Bye-polar disorder is apparently hard to diagnose. You can read the 116-page ruling of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia here, but he is no diagnostician: Sullivan said the plaintiffs challenging the listing “have failed to demonstrate that the agency’s listing determination rises to the level of irrationality.” Oh, it wasn’t irrational for the pro-oil Bushies, but for bears, it was just nuts.
Let’s be clear here: “The survival of polar bears as a species is difficult to envisage under conditions of zero summer sea-ice cover,” concludes the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, by leading scientists from the eight Arctic nations, including the United States.
The climate models have left people with the impression that summer Arctic sea ice will survive past 2050, but reality is already worse than the IPCC’s worst-case scenario. As I discussed in my post last month, “Arctic sea ice volume: The death spiral continues,” it is extremely likely the Arctic will be virtually ice free in the summer within about two decades, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it happened within one.