As we feared, the government has decided that polar bears are at risk because of melting arctic ice. Radical environmentalists are elated because they insist ice is melting from global warming. What’s certain to follow is a flurry of lawsuits to stop everything from oil exploration to building projects anywhere in the country because they emit greenhouse gases, which environmental alarmists claim heat the planet.
“The industries most likely to be pummeled by the polar bear are energy production, aggregates extraction, transportation and commercial building because each can be shown quite easily to result in increased emissions of greenhouse gases, and each routinely requires federal permits to go about some aspect of their business,” wrote Hugh Hewitt, a California law professor specializing in natural resource law. “The coal industry may be target No. 1, followed by oil drilling in the lower 48” states.
Marlo Lewis, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, paints an equally bleak picture: “CEI can easily imagine a scenario in which environmental litigants sue to enjoin builders, developers, utilities, manufacturers, banks, etc. from going about their otherwise lawful pursuits on the grounds that the associated emissions endanger polar bear habitat.”
In short, the Bush administration decision to designate polar bears “threatened” means an already slowed economy will slow more as green-inspired lawsuits block or kill this full range of activities.
When Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne listed the polar bear as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, he tried to argue the decision shouldn’t “open the door to use” the act “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Environmental activists say otherwise. An attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity said last week that any effort to limit the designation to avoid clamping down on emissions would be “illegal and won’t hold up in court.”
The first likely price will be in the cost of oil, as world demand continues climbing, but U.S. production will be further impeded. Can $200 a barrel be far off?
All this is based on a string of shaky assumptions that should have given reasonable people pause.
The government argued polar bears are threatened by melting polar ice. That’s an assumption. There’s no reason to believe retreating ice threatens hugely adaptive polar bears, who have vastly grown in number over 40 years.
There’s also next to no evidence greenhouse gases cause ice to melt, let alone that man’s minuscule contribution significantly contributes to atmospheric warming. Those also are assumptions based on questionable projections, in turn based on assumptions fed into computers. But assumptions rule the day, at least for now.
Lawyer Hewitt suggests turning environmentalists’ tactics back on them by suing to halt other greenhouse-gas emitting activities, such as private jet use, a favorite indulgence of lip-service greens like Al Gore who jet around “to carry their climate-change gospel around the globe.”
That has some appeal, but we’d prefer a more practical and less vindictive response. Alas, those seem fewer than before since a Republican administration has now opened the door for radical environmentalists to implement their agenda by government fiat.
Unfortunately, as Sen. James Inhofe, a critic of global warming alarmism, observed, listing polar bears as threatened “appears to be based more on politics than science.”