Polar Bear Ruling Makes Mockery of Legal System

Recently, a US Federal Court ruled that placing polar bears on the endangered species list in 2008 was justified because it was based on the science available at the time and thus met the letter of the law. Yet the Polar Bear Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has issued a report indicating that there was no change in the overall global polar bear population in the most recent four-year period. Nonetheless, a Federal Judge ruled that, even though the EPA's action was based on bad science, the misclasification was justified. As Dickens' put it in Oliver Twist: “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass — a idiot.”

In 2008, the George W. Bush administration decided to list the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Since the US Fish and Wildlife Service first listed the bear the issue has been controversial: environmental groups wanted the bear listed as endangered, not threatened, giving it more protections; and industry groups and others didn't want it listed at all. This is why some are seeing the ruling by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia as a backhanded defeat for environmental groups.

Thanks to the efforts of multiple environmental groups, the Polar Bear has come to symbolize the supposed impact of climate change on the natural world. In response, numerous plaintiffs have challenged the Listing Rule under the 1973 Endangered Species Act, claiming that the Service’s decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species was arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of agency discretion. In the Judge's 116 page opinion the complexity of the issue was described thus:

As the briefing in this case makes clear, the question of whether, when, and how to list the polar bear under the ESA is a uniquely challenging one. The three-year effort by FWS to resolve this question required agency decision-makers and experts not only to evaluate a body of science that is both exceedingly complex and rapidly developing, but also to apply that science in a way that enabled them to make reasonable predictions about potential impacts over the next century to a species that spans international boundaries. In this process, the Service considered over 160,000 pages of documents and approximately 670,000 comment submissions from state and federal agencies, foreign governments, Alaska Native Tribes and tribal organizations, federal commissions, local governments, commercial and trade organizations, conservation organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and private citizens. In addition to relying on its own experts, the agency also consulted a number of impartial experts in a variety of fields, including climate scientists and polar bear biologists.

After stating that “the Court is keenly aware that this is exactly the kind of decision-making process in which its role is strictly circumscribed,” Judge Sullivan went on to declare the ruling an appropriate act exercise of executive branch authority. “Indeed, it is not this Court’s role to determine, based on its independent assessment of the scientific evidence, whether the agency could have reached a different conclusion with regard to the listing of the polar bear,” Sullivan said in justifying his ruling.

In other words, this ruling had nothing to do with science and everything to do with governmental and political power. This is akin to deciding that, because a plaintiff was found guilty on circumstantial evidence at the time, his subsequent incarceration was proper. Fortunately, in other matters the discovery of new, contradictory facts can lead to a new trial and exoneration.

Science is about supposition, best guesses, and constantly changing explanations. The law is supposed to be held to higher standards. In criminal matters guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. And even in non-criminal matters hearsay evidence is not admissible. The law is supposed to be based on facts, science offers only the explanation du jour.

Still undecided is the issue of global warming and its potential effect on the polar bear's habitat. Environmentalists argue that greenhouse gases are to blame for the polar bear's plight and that the ESA should help regulate emissions, an approach the Obama administration opposes. Sullivan has yet to rule on that question, which the more important issue in the case. Meanwhile, the actual scientific evidence for polar bear endangerment gives the lie to the question—polar bears simply are not endangered.

The SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the organization of scientists that has attempted to monitor the global polar bear population since the 1960s, has issued a report indicating that there was no change in the overall global polar bear population in the most recent four-year period studied. “The total number of polar bears is still thought to be between 20,000 and 25,000,” the group said in a press release on the proceedings of its 15th meeting. This is exactly the same population estimate the group made following its previous meeting.

“Reviewing the latest information available, the PBSG concluded that one of 19 subpopulations is currently increasing, three are stable, and eight are declining,” said the group’s press release on the report. “For the remaining seven subpopulations available data were insufficient to provide an assessment of current trend,” it said.

Moreover, in at least one of the areas marked as declining, the reason for the decline contradicts the assumption that global warming, and hence disappearing pack ice is the cause. The Norwegian Bay subpopulation is threatened by too much ice, not too little: “The preponderance of heavy multi-year ice through most of the central and western areas has resulted in low densities of ringed seals and consequently low densities of polar bears.”

Polar bears are getting along quite well, thank you.

That the polar bear is not threatened is well known to those who have studied the animals over the long term. In The Resilient Earth we quoted Mitchell Taylor, a polar bear biologist with the Canadian government. He confirmed what Inuit hunters have said for a long time: polar bears who live along the southeast coast of Baffin Island, in northern Quebec, and the northern coast of Labrador are healthy, and growing in numbers.

“The Inuit were right. There aren't just a few more bears. There are a hell of a lot more bears,” Taylor said, in an interview. Writing in the Toronto Star, in 2006, he stated: “Of the thirteen populations of polar bears in Canada, eleven are stable or are increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present.”

Even though the population of white bears seems to remain stable according to their spotty data, the PBSG said it viewed anticipated changes in the Arctic environment caused by “climate change” to be the greatest threat to the future of the polar bear. Despite its concern that climate change could threaten the polar bear, the group also said it supported the right of human beings to “harvest” the bears.

The PBSG noted that the subpopulation of polar bears in Baffin Bay, shared between Greenland and Canada, may simultaneously be suffering from significant habitat change and substantial over harvest, while at the same time interpretations by scientists and local hunters disagree regarding population status. Similarly, the Chukchi Sea polar bear subpopulation which is shared by Russia and the United States is likely declining due to illegal harvest in Russia and one of the highest rates of sea ice loss in the Arctic.

Notice how they manage to tack sea ice loss on to the end of the statement. The truth is, humans kill many more polar bears than climate change and if they are endangered is is because of over “harvesting” by trophy hunters and indigenous peoples—but blaming the natives would be politically incorrect. When one's moral sensibilities begins to interfere with scientific judgment it is time to switch from science to philosophy, or maybe political activism.

Perhaps in recognition of the shaky scientific ground their polar bear arguments rest on, the IUCN has issued a new report that casts a wider net in terms of threatened species. “This report presents 10 new climate change flagship species, chosen to represent the impact that climate change is likely to have on land and in our oceans and rivers,” the announcement states. “We hope these species can help to share the Polar Bear’s burden in representing the effects of climate change on our natural world, and the millions of species with whom we share the planet.” The polar bear's real burden comes from hunters, bureaucrats and bad science.

With a distinct lack of scientific evidence backing the case for global warming endangering polar bears, the judge in this case seems wise to eliminate science altogether and concentrate on the arcane technicalities of the law. But in further remarks, Sullivan nevertheless made it clear in his opinion that he had some sympathy for environmental groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity, which had argued that the science on global warming could have supported a finding that the bear was endangered.

“Certainly, where global warming has been identified as the primary threat to the polar bear's sea ice habitat and the agency has acknowledged that the global warming trend is unlikely to reverse itself, a conclusion that the species is ... 'in danger of extinction' has undeniable appeal,” Sullivan wrote in a footnote. Evidently the Judge only considers science when it supports his own prejudices.

Thanks for the extra protection, IUCN. Art by iANAR on deviantART.

It would appear that Dickens was correct, the law is indeed an ass—a blindly ideological idiot dead set on finding in favor of the judiciary's own political prejudices. Of course, the American justice system has nothing to do with justice, only the law. What small glimmer of justice exists has been written into the law by that noble institution, the US Congress—meaning that what justice is on offer was created mostly by accident by a collection of self serving lawyers. If the polar bear needs saving it is from those idiots, not climate change.

Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.

Pack Ice

I read a report yesterday stating that some polar bears were having problems because there was too much pack ice and not enough open water. The prey are staying away from dense pack ice.

This sounds sooooo much like Iowa farmers. It's always too hot, too cold, too rainy, or too dry.

The Polar Bears' Plight - C Higley

"Environmentalists argue that greenhouse gases are to blame for the polar bear's plight "

1) What plight? Oh, you mean perceived plight because you would have a hard time living there! Duh!

Do polar bears need ice? Answer: NO! In some regions the bears live on walrus which haul out on, wait for it . . ., shale and rocky shores! Ohmigod, how can that be!

2) Greenhouse gases are one of the smallest, probably with undetectable effect, factors in our climate. Not only does CO2 interfere with water vapor's ability to convert IR to heat but, as CO2 rises, absolute water vapor decreases, such that here is a relatively constant amount of IR to heat converting gases.

What about methane? Well, first methane has a half-life in the atmosphere which is less than CO2 (which is about 5.4 years, not the 200 years of IPCC fabrication). Methane in the atmosphere has been steadily decreasing for years, with occasional spikes from volcanic activity. Methane is 20-fold better than CO2 at IR to heat conversion, BUT, it is present at ~1.8 ppm (parts per million), much less than CO2 at 390 ppm. It is much, much less abundant than CO2; we are safe from ALL animal farts. Furthermore, melting tundra and permafrost does not release methane; instead the biological material wakes up and starts growing, becoming a very effective carbon sink.

Attribution by the IPCC for the effects of methane are vastly overblown as they have it slightly rising and with a net lifetime of 8.4 years (It does not accumulate) (Wikipedia vomits the IPCC propaganda). There not being much methane does not prevent them form making out of proportion predictions—why let reality and logic get in the way of a good dooms day scenario.

Greenhouse gases are only effective in a greenhouse, as the structure prevents convection. Our atmosphere comprises a huge convectional heat engine such that it is responsible for 85% of heat transfer away from the surface. (The IPCC conveniently pretends that convection does not happen or is negligible—a patent lie.) The truth is that, if these gases caused any warming, causing more water vapor, the result would be to ramp up the convection heat engine, making it more rapid and efficient. The result might even be a bit of cooling.

The only reason to demonize ALL "greenhouse" gases is to find more ways to claim that humans are warming the climate and we have to do something about the humans.

This is all a political agenda which has nothing to do with saving the climate, the planet, the animals, or the people. It is all about power and wealth, with a perfect storm of interest groups, individuals, and governments who see a chance to further their agendas at the expense of the rest of the world. These are evil people as they only have their specific goals in mind, irregardless of the impacts which are usually more damaging by far than their fabricated dangers.

We have the radical environmentalists who get to demonize everybody and everything we do.

We have Al Gore and friends out to make huge fortunes off a false carbon economy.

We have politicians and governments who see a chance for huge new, undeserved revenue streams, control of all business and industry, and unprecedented control of the activities and products of all citizens and companies. [Kiss our freedoms goodbye.]

We have socialists who not only see a chance for huge wealth redistribution, but they have thrown in with the sharia law-toting Muslims as allies in taking over the world.

We have wealth redistribution to undeveloped countries with the purpose of crippling the developed countries while undermining the undeveloped countries' growth as the oppressive dictators and governments would have plenty of funding for dominating their people—it's called nanny state creation. [If you always have an adequate allowance, why ever get a job.]

AND, we have Maurice Strong and the Club of Rome who want to create a one-world government, which would have to be totalitarian and socialist with the powers to put down any country, group, or individual who does not tow the line and be good citizens.

Part of this development is the plan to create a UN Small Arms Treaty such that all small arms would be registered (including location) with the UN. They cannot afford to have an armed populous.

Why on Earth would the US ever want to tell the UN where all of our arms are? So, eventually they can come and get them.

All of these groups are not conspiracy theory as they have been arrogant enough to say their intentions.

Regarding arms, a bureaucrat never collects data for no reason. They plan to make use of it someday.


I wonder what might be causing Arctic/Antarctic ice loss of unprecedented proportions? Why so dramatic a difference in ONLY the last 30 years?

where have you been?

have you been living under a rock? The June 27 Global Sea Ice Area Fourth Highest On Record – Highest Since 1996 (http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/june-27-global-sea-ice-are...), Antarctic sea ice is 23 days ahead of schedule (http://t.co/WyNiu08GU0). Besides, the climate has been several degrees hotter at times in the past, particularly during the Holocene Climate Optimum (Maximum). At that time the Arctic ice pack may have fully melted during the summer. Current conditions are only unprecedented within the life span of those who are ignorant of climate history.

Great point but...

I agree with your stance and it is very well thought out. I was really enjoying it until I came across the word "irregardless"...

The English language is dead.

Oh, shut up with the world government

I absolutely hate it when skeptics spew conspiracy nonsense. I've said it once, and I'll say it again: No one is taking your rights. A world government will not happen. GET.IT.THROUGH.YOUR. THICK. SKULL. It's people like YOU that alarmists label us as conspiracy theorists with their illogical theories. Get out.

Question: What makes you think a world government is possible? Do you honestly think countries will just buy into it? Oh, that's right - nobody knows but you. Shut the hell up. You're not the first to preach this one world garbage nonsense and not the last.

Get. OUT.

You want to start a revolution? Good luck! A country would have to shoot themselves in the foot to strip away the rights you claim that are being stripped away. You are nothing but a paranoid fool making the rest of us skeptics look bad. Shut up and...wake up. There's no shadows behind the curtain. Only your fears. You are no different than the alarmists.

[ Moderator's Note: This comment came close to being dropped because of the ad hominem insults but was let through because it makes a valid point. It was a very close call. Please people, rational argumentation not name calling. ]