Polar Bears and Stalking Horses - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Polar Bears and Stalking Horses

It hasn’t happened yet, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is flirting with the idea of declaring the polar bear a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act. Ardent environmentalists are pushing hard for this, bringing back field reports and videos of emaciated polar bears and brandishing a U.S. Geological Survey that claims that Alaskan polar bears could be gone — pfft — by 2050.

Why the alarm? Polar ice floes, on which the bears depend for fishing and breeding, are declining.

Last summer saw what is said to be the largest shrinkage of sea ice on record. The cause, of course, is said to be global warming. If the polar bear is declared “threatened,” this could trigger a number of restrictions on activities that produce carbon emissions in the “lower forty-eight” states — a persistent objective of the more extreme environmentalists. To get to that point, several groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed suit to put the bears into the “threatened” category.

The environmentalists’ concern for polar bears is touching, but the furry creatures are only a stalking horse for their real objective: stopping the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the Lower Forty-Eight in order to tap the 35 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves in the North Slope. Stop the pipeline and you reduce the nation’s ability to keep its economy running at current levels. The polar bear is serving the same purpose as the Northern spotted owl, which was a “stalking horse” used to nearly bring the harvesting of timber to an end in the Pacific Northwest.

Is the polar bear population really declining? The U.S. Geological Survey puts out conflicting reports. Its 2002 survey of wildlife in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain said the polar bear population “may now be near historic highs.” On the other hand, a 2006 study in the Beaufort Sea area counted 1,526 bears, compared with 1,800 in 1986.

The predictions of polar bear extinction come, as such things do, from speculative computer models which are only as good as the assumptions that are loaded into them. Many scientists disagree with the output:

“They are not going extinct….It is just silly to predict the demise of polar bars in 25 years based on media-assisted hysteria,” says Dr. Mitchell Taylor, a Canadian biologist and director of wildlife research for the Arctic Government of Nunavit.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the polar bear or its food supply is in danger of disappearing entirely with increased Arctic warming, regardless of the dire fairy-tale scenarios predicted by computer models,”‘ says Dr. Susan Crockford, evolutionary biologist and paleozoologist at the University of Victoria in Canada.

“I think climate change is happening, but as far as the polar bear disappearing is concerned, I have never been more convinced that this is just scare-mongering,” according to Nigel Marven, naturalist, zoologist and botanist who spent three months last year filming polar bears in Canada’s Arctic.

Noting that we are entering a geologic “interglacial” period, Dr. Olafur Ingolfsson, a University of Iceland professor who has conducted extensive field work in both the Arctic and Antarctic, recently said, “…the polar bear was a morphologically distinct species at least 100,000 years (ago), and this basically means that the polar bear has already survived one interglacial period.”

There are many more such comments, but these suffice to cast serious doubt on the claims of the extreme environmentalists that the polar bear will soon become extinct if we don’t stop modern society in its tracks. Everyone wants clean air and water, but very few people — beyond the extreme environmentalists — share this objective. What the general public needs to remember is that, with environmentalists, the stated objective often is not the real one.

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