Obama Agrees With Bush: Polar Bears Won't Drive Global Warming Policy

By Rachel Cernansky | May 11, 2009 1:57 pm

polar.jpgThe Obama administration announced on Friday that it will keep a Bush-era rule that limits the steps that the government can take to protect polar bears. The rule prevents the Endangered Species Act from being used to curb greenhouse gas emissions, even though those emissions contribute to the shrinking of polar bear habitat by causing global warming and melting Arctic sea ice. The decision comes despite recent moves to undo former president Bush’s environmental legacy. It was announced on Friday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who rejected special authority given to him by Congress and the pleas of Democratic lawmakers, environmentalists and scientists to overturn the regulation [Greenwire].

According to federal officials, the Endangered Species Act was written for a different kind of threat. In cases where an animal is threatened by logging, trapping or land development, it is used to identify—and punish—individual actions that harm them. That framework cannot be applied to climate change, they said, because the sources of that problem are global [San Francisco Chronicle]. Salazar said that the polar bear will still be listed as “threatened,” but instead of protecting it through the Endangered Species Act, the administration would push for legislation to limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. A “comprehensive global change strategy” is needed, he said.

The polar bear was declared a threatened species in May, 2008, because of its melting sea-ice habitat. The rule now being retained by the Obama administration was finalized under Bush in December and served to limit the protection of the bear, saying no action outside the Arctic region could be considered a threat to the bear under the law [CBC].

Many environmentalists are disappointed by Friday’s decision, including advocates such as Jamie Rappaport Clark of the group Defenders of Wildife, who said, “[The rule] made no sense under the Bush administration and it certainly makes no sense for the Obama administration.” Interior will now be forced to defend the rule in court. Environmental groups that sued to overturn the … rule said today that they plan to press their lawsuit [Greenwire].

Related Content:
80beats: Obama Brings Experts Back to Endangered Species Policy
80beats: Obama Moves to Undo Bush-Era Environmental Policies
80beats: 2 Trillion Tons of Polar Ice Lost in 5 Years, and Melting Is Accelerating
DISCOVER: Polar Bears (Finally) Make the Endangered Species List

Image: Flickr / Just Being Myself

  • http://clubneko.net Nick

    There is way too much money to be made exploiting the natural resources trapped under the arctic. That is the real reason – if we mince around and protect the polar bears, other nations will kill them anyway in the jackdaw scramble to mine loot from the sea floor.

    That being said, I wish it wasn’t true.

  • http://TwoSistersArtandSoul Lisette Root

    If we don’t stop global warming all of Earths’ spieces are in danger. You can’t eat oil, after all.

  • chris

    I wonder if there is a way to measure the actual effect we’ve had on global warming or on the melting of the polar ice caps.

    After all, there is something of a cycle to these things, though I do not absolve us from blame.

    Perhaps the idea of environmental protection is dated? Perhaps we should look to a more broad consideration that involves the mose effective and efficeint use of resources?

    As our population continues to grow I beleive we have to learn to control our environment instead of preserve it.

  • http://uncensored.dutch.blogspot.com onix

    well if ESA is meant against individual actions in principle the individual contributors to the problem should be taxed for their contributions to green gass emiting. It would be fit for the state to spend in consequence with the limitations of global options. otoh it is ofcourse true the law is not meant for this, however i am not sure it is fair to claim the public should set up yet another platform to represent something well within the scope of environment and species diversity. To stick with icebears extinction appears not to be a pleasant event. destroying the ecotope is more animal unfriendly then commonly thought. I try to think fo a comparative case, perhaps stopping signal. When you don’t stop for a stopping signal, the fact you are completely free to actually not look and thus not notice a stopping signal, doesn’t need another law.

  • http://yahoo john jones

    i think that no body should care about these animals cuz they ain’t doin nothin for us

  • http://yahoo john jones

    my president is black that is all i care about cuz i love obama

  • http://yahoo john jones

    [Moderator’s note: Comment deleted for being off-topic and rambling.]

  • Jumblepudding

    There should be enough impetus to curb emissions even without the bears dying. I think it’s just a signpost to how far gone we are when these supremely adapted predators are drowning in record numbers.


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