The polar bear is the iconic image of global warming. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace have skillfully reinforced that point with heart-tugging visuals of bears leaping from one shrinking ice floe to another in desperate attempts to stay alive. Elementary and high school students throughout the U.S. have adopted the polar bear as the “poster animal” of warming. The U.S. Geological Society has validated the threat to the bears, reporting that two-thirds of them will vanish by 2050 if predictions of future melting sea ice hold up.
This blogger believes that like everything else in the Bush Administration, energy development explained Interior’s foot-dragging. Interior is home to the Minerals Management Services, which has been selling off Alaskan oil and gas leases to energy companies. Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips were among giants that bid $3.4B for Alaskan oil leases in February. That bidding including a habitat for one of two of Alaska’s polar bear populations, and is undeveloped land not seen in any area of the U.S., according to Shell executive Annell Bay. Conservation groups -- to no avail -- protested that bidding, saying Interior had not made its decision on the fate of the bears. That now looms.
If Interior rules the bears are threatened, they will be the first species designated as a potential victim of global warming. That decision would be pretty embarrassing to the global warming deniers that dominate the Administration. It also will signal that -- in the waning days of the Bush Administration -- things are changing for the better in D.C.