The Endangered Polar Bear


The US has just listed the Polar Bear as a Threatened Species.  It is claimed by some that this is the first species that has been declared threatened by global warming.

I really don’t know if this is good or bad. The arguments from both sides seem quite convincing, in different ways.  The pro-endanger side says that since global warming is going to melt the ice that polar bears hunt on, they will start to rapidly decline in numbers and need our protection.  The con-endanger group says that there is no evidence to date that polar bears are dying due to ice loss so we are rushing the effort and the polar bear population has increased since the elimination of controlled hunting of the bears.  A great discussion of this can be found at The War Over the Polar Bear.

What seems obvious is that global warming is not the biggest threat that threatens polar bears today, but rather hunters are.  When the hunters had free will, they hunted the population almost to nothing.  Once that was brought under control, the population exploded.  Predicting the future is something few people can do well so I can’t comment on the future threat of global warming.

In the Pages section of this site, I discuss that man-made is a combination of at least 3 hypotheses. Since I haven’t seen any data that says that polar bears are being significantly affected by global warming, it would seem that supporters of this new decree are adding at least one hypothesis to the other 3.  In general, layering 4 hypotheses is questionable science (my last hypothesis was that carbon dioxide was the cause of global warming – the polar bear activists don’t actually need that one as they could blame methane).

My first thought is, “What is the harm?”  Yes, I know that there are some facets of Canadian and Alaskan population that will be hurt because they can’t hunt a bear or two this year, nor will they be able to help some rich businessman bag a trophy while drinking his favorite Scotch.  This will be a slight hardship for those individuals however I am not sure that it will cause anyone to die of starvation.

So we put the bear on the list.  If we are wrong about global warming then the population should thrive at an even greater rate than it did when the bears were numbered at about 5000.  If we are right about global warming then we did what we could to save the bears. I do think that we should put much more effort into studying the bears and their climate so that we don’t have a bear population explosion which could be very detrimental to their health as we have observed in deer population explosions.

I know that some will say that this act will make it more difficult to get oil out of the Arctic.  I am sure that this part of the effort would be a rounding error in the general fight. Oil companies haven’t been able to get access to that oil for decades, classification of the bears is not going to change the effort substantially.

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4 thoughts on “The Endangered Polar Bear”

  1. Kirk says:

    This could be just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended). It amazes me how stupid the Americans are to permit unelected officials to make rulings (pseudo-laws) that will hinder their own freedom and choke their prosperity. Just as stupid is that only in America would their top judges proclaim that carbon dioxide is a pollutant and can be regulated by other unelected officials. This will just add another justification for the Americans to sue themselves whenever they want to use energy or produce more energy. It is funny (unless you are an American) that they complain about high gas prices but they do not want to use their own cheap energy.

  2. tim maguire says:

    Putting a species on the endagered list has ramifications that go beyond hunting to the restriction of fundamental property rights. If the bear population is not threatened (as it doesn’t seem to be at the moment), then they should not be put on the list.

    It sets a dangerous precedent to use this type of species protection against a hypothetical threat.

  3. R. says:

    This event would have seemed benine if it was not mentioned to a personal acquaintance by well know astrophysicist, and popular scientific vulgarizer, Hubert Reeves, during a dinner gathering, while presenting his views on climate change and its effects on human society, that putting polar bears on the endangered species’ list could legally oblige the American government to do all within its power protect it; including taking drastic environmental stances and mesures.

    Wonder what the legal experts have to say on this claim…

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