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The Bush administration, under legal pressure from three environ-
mental groups, will propose listing polar bears as threatened under
the Endangered Species Act, The Washington Post reported.
The Post, quoting an Interior Department official who spoke on
condition of anonymity in advance of the announcement, said
the department would submit the proposal Wednesday for
publication in the Federal Register.
It further quoted the official as saying Fish and Wildlife Service
officials have concluded that polar bears could be endangered
within 45 years.
Once a species is listed as threatened, the government is barred
from doing anything to jeopardize the animal's existence or its
In the case of the polar bear, environmentalists hope to force
the government to curb emissions of greenhouse gases such as
carbon dioxide that can contribute to global warming.
The Bush Administration conceded yesterday that global warming is threatening the polar bear with extinction, the first time that it has singled out climate change as a grave threat to the Arctic and its most iconic inhabitant.
In a move that will have profound consequences not only for the polar bear but potentially for America’s polluting industries, the Administration declared last night that the polar bear should be added to its endangered species list because of the drastic melting of its habitat.
The move would trigger mandatory legal safeguards that could potentially force US industries to cut their carbon dioxide output.
Moreover, when the WWF report is compared with the Arctic air temperature trend studies discussed earlier, there is a strong positive (instead of negative) correlation between air temperature and polar bear populations. Polar bear populations are declining in regions (like Baffin Bay) that have experienced a decrease in air temperature, while areas where polar bear populations are increasing (near the Bering Strait and the Chukchi Sea) are associated with increasing air temperatures. Thus it is difficult to argue that rising air temperatures will necessarily and directly lead to a decrease in polar bear populations.