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NRDC and our allies head to court to defend the polar bear

Andrew Wetzler

Posted September 28, 2010

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polar bear in ice, via creative commons (photo credit:

Everyone knows that polar bears need ice to live.  Specifically, sea ice.  And the decline of sea ice throughout the Arctic--driven by global warming--is the principle reason that polar bears are now in so much peril.  This summer, minimum ice extent was the third-lowest recorded since 1979, that’s a loss of over 2 million square kilometers (815,000 square miles) of habitat.

But don’t tell that to Alaska, or Big Oil, or the Safari Club (who want its members to continue to be allowed to shoot polar bears in Canada and haul their bodies back into the United States).  All of these groups have sued to overturn the polar bear’s listing as a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act.  NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, and our allies have intervened in these cases to defend the bear.  We’ve also filed a case of our own, which seeks to increase the polar bear’s protections under federal law by changing its classification from “threatened” to “endangered.”  That change would close some of the loopholes the Bush Administration left in place--a parting gift to the oil and gas industry--when it protected the bear in the first place.

On October 20th all of these cases, which have been consolidated before a single judge, will be heard in federal court in Washington, D.C., at 10:00 a.m.  The Court has set aside four hours to hear arguments from all parties.  NRDC and our entire legal team will be there.  And I’ll be sure to report on the action.

In the meantime, you can go here to learn more or to write Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar a letter and tell him that now is the time to strengthen the polar bear’s protections.

A polar bear with two cubs, via creative commons (photo by allatok)

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Megan WeimerSep 28 2010 08:07 PM

defend the polar bear!

Christopher C BeauSep 29 2010 12:14 AM

Good article. I will re-post. Of course these beautiful carnivores need all the help they can get. I have a special page on my web site about polar bears. My take on this is that if we cannot manage somehow to save the polar bears, what on earth makes us think that we are going to be able to save our civilization?
Anyway, Andrew, thank you so much for your work. We need more people like you. :)
Christopher Beau

OrkneygalSep 29 2010 06:36 AM

Paper: Current Arctic Sea Ice is More Extensive than Most of the past 9000 Years

Abstract: Cores from site HLY0501-05 on the Alaskan margin in the eastern Chukchi Sea were analyzed for their geochemical (organic carbon, d13Corg, Corg/N, and CaCO3) and palynological (dinocyst, pollen, and spores) content to document oceanographic changes during the Holocene. The chronology of the cores was established from 210Pb dating of nearsurface sediments and 14C dating of bivalve shells. The sediments span the last 9000 years, possibly more, but with a gap between the base of the trigger core and top of the piston core. Sedimentation rates are very high (*156 cm/ka), allowing analyses with a decadal to centennial resolution. The data suggest a shift from a dominantly terrigenous to marine input from the early to late Holocene. Dinocyst assemblages are characterized by relatively high concentrations (600– 7200 cysts/cm3) and high species diversity, allowing the use of the modern analogue technique for the reconstruction of sea-ice cover, summer temperature, and salinity. Results indicate a decrease in sea-ice cover and a corresponding, albeit much smaller, increase in summer sea-surface temperature over the past 9000 years. Superimposed on these long-term trends are millennial-scale fluctuations characterized by periods of low sea-ice and high sea-surface temperature and salinity that appear quasi-cyclic with a frequency of about one every 2500–3000 years. The results of this study clearly show that sea-ice cover in the western Arctic Ocean has varied throughout the Holocene. More importantly, there have been times when sea-ice cover was less extensive than at the end of the 20th century.

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