Senate Hearing Should Approach Polar Bears Cautiously

Washington, D.C., January 30, 2008—Today the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hear testimony on the whether the polar bear is a threatened species, and whether it should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Some activists have claimed that the bears are threatened by the effects of global warming, and protecting them requires government action to limit the emission of greenhouse gases.

If the U.S. government does list the polar bear as a threatened species, it would trigger provisions in the ESA requiring further government action that could adversely affect most economic activity across the nation. In this way, critics of the current Administration’s position on global warming could force policy changes that would be otherwise unattainable.

“The campaign for designating polar bears as officially threatened or endangered is not really about protecting wildlife. The larger goal is to compel regulatory controls on energy use that global warming alarmists have been unable to persuade Congress to enact,” said Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Despite claims to the contrary, polar bears populations worldwide have actually increased dramatically in the past half century. Historically, polar bears have also survived in times when Arctic temperatures were significantly higher they are now or are likely to be in the foreseeable future.

Finally, predictions of massive melting in the Arctic are themselves based on climate models of dubious accuracy. “No greenhouse climate model can replicate the Arctic warmth of the late 1930s, the greater than present Greenland warmth during the first half of the 20th century, or the greater than present Greenland warmth during the Medieval Warm Period,” said CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis. “This suggests that model representations of the Arctic climate are still too crude to serve as a basis for prediction.”

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