Polar Bear “protection” will not stop drilling for oil in Arctic waters.

Polar bears in Alaska.

Photo: Polar Bears on the Beaufort Sea Coastline of Alaska. Scientists predict that the continuing loss of sea ice will lead to a two-thirds decline in polar bears by mid-century. Photo taken: October 15 2006. (Image courtesy of Alaska Image Library)

The Interior Department has finally listed polar bears as a threatened species. The sea ice, their habitat, continues to decline and losses due to melting may even be expected to increase in the future.

The listing had been delayed over the last year. In doing so the delay allowed oil companies to bid for leases for exploration in the Chukchi Sea, free of the problem of considering of the plight of the polar bear. The lease area covers some of the habitat of the polar bear in Alaska.

Ironically the listing may not actually afford the polar bear any more protection than it now has under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and even with the Endangered Species Act oil companies would still be allowed to continue their activities. Is this listing then, merely for show? What actual protection will the polar bear actually get?

Some disturbing comments were reported by AAP’s Josef Hebert, who quotes Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne as saying this:

” that he did not view the increased protection of the bear afforded by the Endangered Species Act as a back door to regulate greenhouse gases coming from power plants, automobiles and industrial sources.”

and this:

“Kempthorne sought to assure the business community that the bear’s protection would not keep someone from building a coal-burning power plant or drill for oil in Arctic waters.”

Is this not the source of the polar bears problem, emissions leading to global warming, leading to ice melting and so the destruction of the bear’s habitat? In spite of the listing then, the will to actually address the root causes of the global warming process is sadly lacking by this administration.

It is obvious that it will be business as usual when the summer period allows companies to pursue oil and gas exploration unfettered by any more substantial restrictions and that, as the scientists foresee, the polar bear will be among the many species set to disappear because of the mad rush for oil. Energy security will become a meaningless achievement if life on earth becomes unsustainable for all of us some time in the future.

Only when the government gets serious and decides to “regulate greenhouse gases coming from power plants, automobiles and industrial sources,” will the real cause of the global warming dilemma be addressed. Only then will the endangered species like the polar bear have a real chance for survival.

PHOTO OF THE DAY: This image comes from NASA’s “Our Earth as Art” series from their website.

Icefall, Lambert Glacier, Antarctica. Image taken 12/2/2000

NASA image of glacier in Antarctica

The Lambert Glacier in Antarctica, is the world’s largest glacier. The focal point of this image is an icefall that feeds into the Lambert glacier from the vast ice sheet covering the polar plateau. Ice flows like water, albeit much more slowly. Cracks can be seen in this icefall as it bends and twists on its slow-motion descent 1300 feet (400 meters) to the glacier below. (This Icefall can be found on Landsat 7 WRS Path 42 Row 133/134/135, center: -70.92, 69.15.)

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Thursday, 15 May, 2008.

One Response to “Polar Bear “protection” will not stop drilling for oil in Arctic waters.”

  1. Why Do We Care If Polar Bears Become Extinct?

    This is not any sort of revelation: Polar bears declared a threatened species , but it does raise the question: Why do we care? By some estimates, 90% of all species that once existed are now extinct and new species are always taking their place. For the species that’s going to become extinct, for whatever reason, extinction is the end of it. However, for the species that remain, is the extinction of another species good or bad? When Europeans first colonized North America, there was an estimated five (5) billion Passenger Pigeons alive and well in North America. In 1914, they were extinct. Passenger Pigeons didn’t live in little groups, but huge flocks that required extraordinary quantities of hardwood forests for them to feed, breed and survive. Deforestation to build homes, create farmland and over hunting for cheap food decimated their population. The westward drive to grow the United States in the 1800s and early 1900s was incompatible with the needs of the Passenger Pigeon and they literally could not survive in the new North America being carved out by the U.S. economy. The interesting thing about the Passenger Pigeon was the impact its extinction had on another species—man. That impact was essentially none. Man continued to find ways to feed himself through agriculture and other technologies and the United States and its citizens continued to prosper from the early 20th century till today. Whether or not Polar Bears become extinct because of Global Climate Change or other reasons, we need to address the larger question of: Do we care and why? One of the ways a nation, its citizens and the global community can answer that question is addressed by John A. Warden III in Thinking Strategically About Global Climate Change. He asks some interesting biodiversity questions in his post to include How Many Species Is the Right Number and Which Ones?

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