The Department of Interior suffers from a rare form of bipolar disorder called bye-polar disorder. There is one major symptom of this disorder: You list the polar bear as “threatened” because of its melting polar sea ice habitat, but then do nothing to actually protect that polar habitat from its primary threat, greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
The disorder is accompanied by an occasional burst of logic, as when the DOI noted:
- The polar bears need sea ice for feeding.
- The sea ice is being destroyed by human-caused emissions, faster than the models had predicted.
- Thus, the polar bear is endangered.
On the other hand, the disorder makes it physically, or at least psychologically, impossible for the patient to take any action based on that burst of logic. The quote in this post’s subtitle is from the DOI press release’s own subhead. Someone will need to explain how producing fossil fuels — whose combustion is destroying the polar bear’s habitat — is consistent with preserving an endangered species.
The disorder is also marked by unintentional bursts of irony, as in the use of the phrase “Rule will allow continuation of vital energy production.” The word ‘vital’ means “Necessary to the continuation of life; life-sustaining.”
Listing the polar bear as threatened can reduce avoidable losses of polar bears. But it should not open the door to use of the ESA to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from automobiles, power plants, and other sources. That would be a wholly inappropriate use of the ESA law. The ESA is not the right tool to set U.S. climate policy.
Sadly, doctors say bye-polar disorder is incurable. Worse, since global warming is opening up the Arctic to more fossil fuel drilling, victims of bye-polar disorder tend to suffer a progressively deteriorating condition.
If you want to become an expert on polar bears and their habitat, read the actual 368-page DOI rule here [big PDF]. You can see the Wonk Room’s comments here. Sierra Club’s view is here.
This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.