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Polar bears, which have become a symbol in debate over global warming, today were added to the federal list of endangered species, the Times' Ken Weiss reports:
The Bush administration today designated the polar bear as threatened with extinction, making the big arctic bear, whose fate clings to shrinking sea ice, the first creature added to the endangered species list primarily because of global warming.
environmental lobbyists persuaded the Bush administration to recommend that the polar bear be listed as threatened due to global warming. In lieu of evidence, environmentalists offered mostly anecdotes that polar bears are at risk: isolated reports of a few polar bears drowning in Arctic waters normally containing sea ice as well as a few instances of cannibalism among polar bears. Then they posited first that human caused global warming will melt most of the ice at the North Pole within 50 years, and that without the ice, polar bears will be unable to hunt seals, their preferred prey.
Environmentalists presented only one study which shows that one population of polar bears in Canada's Western Hudson Bay had seen a decline of 21 percent following a loss of the average weight of female polar bears which led to reduced cub survival.
Fortunately, both for policy and the polar bears, the plight of this one population does not reflect the population trend as a whole. Indeed, since the 1970s -- all while the world was warming - polar bear numbers increased dramatically from around 5,000 to as many as 25,000 today (higher than at anytime in the 20th century). And historically, polar bears have thrived in temperatures even warmer than at present -- during the medieval warm period 1000 years ago and during the Holocene Climate Optimum between 5,000 and 9,000 years ago.