Editorial: Listing polar bears as endangered a scary proposition

There’s no documented, let alone alarming, loss of lovable, fuzzy polar bears.

But freedom-loving Americans ought to be alarmed at what’s proposed under the guise of saving the furry critters.

The federal government is considering designating polar bears as an endangered species, a leap in logic in light of the confusion about whether their numbers are increasing or decreasing.

Global warming alarmists insist polar bears are at risk of extinction because of a string of “ifs.”

If manmade greenhouse gases are warming the atmosphere, and if increases in climate temperature continue, and if that warming leads to melting of arctic ice, and if that leads to bears being unable to find food or getting enmeshed in oil that might spill if drilling is permitted where ice used to be, and if these marvelous swimming creatures start to drown because of the lack of ice, then the alarmists may be right.
This strikes us as a rather iffy proposition.

Whether receding arctic ice actually poses a threat to polar bears is problematic, at best.

The most obvious evidence that the species is hardy enough to weather this storm of “ifs” ought to be the fact that without man’s help bears thrive in an area that 1,000 years ago was substantially warmer.

The Vikings farmed in what today is icy Greenland. It’s called Greenland for a reason.

But there’s more at work here than fussing over polar bears. What’s at stake with the Interior Department’s pending decision on whether to declare the species endangered is the domino effect of consequences a declaration would set in motion.

“The listing of the bear is just the first step in an elaborate dance that will result in the imposition of extraordinarily expensive and delay-inducing permitting requirements on any industrial or commercial activity that requires a federal permit of any sort and emits greenhouse gases,” says columnist Hugh Hewitt, a law professor and lawyer specializing in natural resource law.

“. . . (A)ny lease of federal land and any federal highway project will be the target of the advocates for urgent reduction in carbon emissions,” Hewitt predicts. “They will argue that courts must immediately enjoin any federal permit unless and until the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service has reviewed the permit and suggested mitigations — including redesign or compensatory carbon offsets.
“The avalanche of lawsuits waiting in the wings all come with the promise of attorneys’ fees, as well, guaranteeing that the FESA litigation cycle will never end.”

Concurring is Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who warns that “Virtually every human activity that involved the release of carbon into the atmosphere would have to be regulated by the federal government.”

All of this would be set in motion by a string of “ifs” predicting a theoretical extinction of polar bears.

“Contrary to activist claims, populations of polar bears worldwide are not only not in peril, but have increased dramatically in the past half century,” according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free enterprise think tank. “The predictions that they will be threatened by the effects of potential future global warming are speculative at best and clearly not supported by historical evidence or present-day observations.”

We have two scary scenarios. One involves a lot of “ifs” predicated on highly speculative computer models. The other involves the known track record of environmental activists, who would be armed with a far-reaching new weapon for blocking or crippling development. The second is far more likely, and scarier.