Thursday, May 15, 2008

Won't somebody think of the polar bears

Astonishingly, because the polar bear population is healthy and growing, this headline was published today:

US lists polar bears as threatened species

WASHINGTON: The US Government has listed polar bears as a threatened species, warning that melting of Arctic sea ice is risking their habitat.

“Today I am listing the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act,” said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, after satellite imagery found ice coverage had fallen to its lowest level yet recorded.

The Government was acting on advice from scientists and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mr Kempthorne detailed greater steps to monitor polar bear populations in Alaska and outlying islands in the Beaufort Sea, and more co-operation with foreign governments to protect the species.

Earlier in the week, the Boston Herald suggested what some of the dire consequences of this stupidity would be:
If the bears were listed, the service would be obliged to designate "critical habitat." The Endangered Species Act provides that each federal agency would have to `insure that any action authorized, funded or carried out by such agency is not likely to jeopardize any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification (our italics) of (critical) habitat of such species."

The environmentalists, if not the service, could claim that any activity that emitted carbon dioxide, the chief gas causing the supposed warming, could not be authorized, financed or done by a federal agency. The agencies would have to bring the modern world to a crash as no fossil fuels could be burned in power plants, no highways built and so forth throughout the economy.
And it seems the report upon which this foolish decision was based is far from perfect:
A new study has claimed that the research done by the US Department of the Interior to determine if global warming threatens the polar bear population is so flawed that it cannot be used to justify listing the polar bear as an endangered species.

The research came about when on April 30, US District Judge Claudia Wilken ordered the Interior Department to decide by May 15 whether polar bears should be listed under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. But, after professor J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School and colleagues undertook an audit at the request of the state of Alaska , they found the Interior Department report to be flawed.

As part of the subsequent study, the authors examined nine US Geological Survey Administrative Reports. Professor Armstrong and his colleagues concluded that the most relevant study, properly applied only 15% of relevant forecasting principles and that the second study only 10%, while 46% were clearly contravened and 23% were apparently contravened. Further, according to them, the Geologic Survey reports do not adequately substantiate the authors' assumptions about changes to sea ice and polar bears' ability to adapt that are key to the recommendations.

"These studies are meant to inform the US Fish and Wildlife Service about listing the polar bear as endangered," said Armstrong. "After careful examination, my co-authors and I were unable to find any references to works providing evidence that the forecasting methods used in the reports had been previously validated. In essence, they give no scientific basis for deciding one way or the other about the polar bear," he added.
On a personal level, I find this incredibly stupid. Last night I just read the chapter in Atlas Shrugged were Washington passes the "Equalization of Opportunity Bill" which causes dozens of American industries to hit the wall and suffer. Also in the novel was the proposal by "community of disinterested citizens" to investigate Rearden Metal for its safety when used in railroads. The citizens started signing a petition to prevent the railroad for opening for 12 months until an investigation was carried out. The fact that this would have caused bankruptcy for several involved firms in massive projects was totally disregarded.

I recommend everyone read Atlas Shrugged. Its as relevant as ever.