Climate change: Obama administration pulls habitat lifeline from endangered polar bears
While the polar bear’s hunting grounds are literally melting from under their feet, the Obama administration has failed to use the most powerful clause in the Endangered Species Act to protect them. The ESA requires the habitat of endangered species to be managed in a way that helps facilitate survival of the species.
On Tuesday, in the waning days of Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s reign, a special rule modified after the ESA amendment originated by the Bush administration, was adapted by the Obama administration. The measure doesn’t allow occurrences outside the immediate habitat of an endangered species to be considered for regulation.
According to Center for Biological Diversity assessment, the special rule means that ESA can’t be used as an additional tool to curb pollution spewing from smoke stacks far away from polar bear habitat, although such carbon-loaded emissions are conclusively linked to global warming and the melting of Arctic sea ice.
Atmospheric pollution travels for great distances. Scientists have taken ice core samples that contain carbon particulates originating from thousands of miles away.
The administration’s move came as a withering disappointment to environmentalists after President Obama has restated commitments to combat climate change in his second term.
“The president’s failure to protect the polar bear is part of a deeply troubling pattern,” said Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity, who authored the original scientific petition to give polar bears federal protection. “The Obama administration has repeatedly acknowledged climate change’s threat to endangered species — from polar bears and ice seals in the Arctic to wolverines in continental United States. But time and again, the administration has refused to use the Endangered Species Act to protect these animals from carbon pollution.”
Given the fact that polar bears were the first species ever to be listed due to habitat threat from global warming, the action makes no sense, because sea ice is melting as the result of the warmest few years in weather recording history.
“It’s like pulling the fire alarm and then sending the firefighters home,” was Cummings analogy.
The Center for Biological Diversity had this to say about Tuesday’s move by the feds:
The special rule comes just days after a new report from 12 leading polar bear researchers urging governments to begin planning for rapid ecosystem changes that could send key bear populations into abrupt decline. Without help, more than two-thirds of the planet’s polar bears, including all the bears in Alaska, will likely be gone by 2050.
Sea-ice has been at historic lows since satellite record keeping began in 1979.
“The Obama administration’s strong climate rhetoric is completely at odds with this weak decision not to protect polar bears from carbon pollution,” Cummings said.”These amazing animals need the Endangered Species Act’s full protection — not this hollow half-measure that ignores the mortal danger that polar bears are in from greenhouse gas emissions.”
National Wildlife Federation is also ramping up their efforts to put pressure on the White House to use the full weight of the ESA to protect polar bears.
For more information on the polar bear’s plight click here.
Jean Williams, environmental and political journalist; PrairieDogPress writer; Artistic Director, Keystone Prairie Dogs.***PrairieDogPress is the media channel for keystone-prairie-dogs.com, which is a fundraising website to support environmental groups for extraordinary efforts to protect Great Plains habitat and prairie dogs in the wild. PDP uses humorous images, social commentary and serious-minded political reports to challenge government on numerous levels, including accountability to the people, the protection of threatened species, the environment and Earth’s natural resources.