Environmentalists sue US to ensure listing of polar bear under Endangered Species Act.

It is really disappointing to see that the listing of the polar bear has been so sidelined while the race to explore the Arctic for oil and gas reserves has been escalating over the last year. The listing was postponed while the Chukchi Sea leases were being allocated because it would have undoubtedly affected the process. This week three environmental groups have come together, the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the Bush administration for missing its legal deadline for issuing a final decision on whether to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming.

The groups filed their lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit seeks a court order compelling the administration to issue the final decision on polar bear protection immediately.

In a press release issued on March 10, Kassie Siegal, climate program director at the Center for Biological Diversity and lead author of the 2005 petition seeking the Endangered Species Act listing was reported as saying that “the Bush administration seems intent on slamming shut the narrow window of opportunity we have to save polar bears. We simply will not sit back and passively allow the administration to condemn polar bears to extinction.”

In fact, the real problem is that Polar bears live only in the Arctic and are totally dependent on the sea ice for all of their essential needs. As things stand it appears that the polar bear will be the first mammal to lose 100 percent of its habitat due to global warming. Therefore the continuing rapid warming of the Arctic and melting of the sea ice pose an overwhelming threat to the polar bear.

Scientific reports filed with the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), using current rates of greenhouse gas production, show that climate models predict a loss of more than 40 percent of prime spring and summer polar bear habitat by 2050. Polar bear biologists posit that more than 60 percent of the current population will be lost within the next 50 years, with near-extinction likely by the end of the century.

As global warming is worsening, the impacts in the Arctic are outpacing scientific predictions. In fact, in September 2007 the the area of the Arctic ice cap shrank by a record level to below the average summer sea-ice levels of the past several years. This was a record loss of sea-ice that had not been predicted to be reached until mid-century.

The direct impact of the continuing loss of sea-ice on the polar bear is that it restricts their ability to hunt their main prey, ice seals. The Centre for Biological Diversity reports that in the spring of 2006, scientists located the bodies of several bears that had starved to death. Unprecedented instances of polar bear cannibalism have also been documented along the north coast of Alaska and Canada.

The US Geological Survey, has Pdf files of the reports that contain the information mentioned and and other recent studies that present relationships of polar bears to present and future sea ice environments. (an adobe reader is needed to view the files). For those interested in the science related to polar bears these studies can be downloaded at the above link.

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Friday, 14 March, 2008.

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