In an August 5, 2008 Reuters article by environmental correspondent Deborah Zabarenko, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has spearheaded a lawsuit against the United States over the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species. The governor cites concerns that Alaskan oil and gas exploration will be hurt by the protection of the remaining polar bears, which many scientist believe could be extinct by 2050.
The state of Alaska has sued the U.S. government, arguing that listing polar bears as a threatened species will hurt Alaskan oil and gas exploration, fisheries and tourism.
The lawsuit, filed on Monday in federal court in Washington, seeks the withdrawal of a May 14 decision to list the big Arctic bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because climate change is melting their sea ice habitat.
“We believe that the … decision to list the polar bear was not based on the best scientific and commercial data available,” Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said in a statement.
Polar bears live only in the Arctic and depend on sea ice as a platform for hunting seals. The U.S. Geological Survey reported last year that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears – some 16,000 – could be gone by 2050 if predictions about melting sea ice hold true.
In putting the white bears on the threatened list, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne achnowledged that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions contributed to the planetary warming that has damaged the polar bears’ habitat.
However, the decision does nothing to address climate change, and Kempthorne said any real solution to that underlying problem is up to the world’s economies.
Environmental groups vowed to seek to have the lawsuit dismissed.
“The state’s lawsuit isn’t about the science of global warming and polar bears,” said Melanie Duchin of Greenpeace USA. “It is merely doing the bidding of oil companies that want to drill for oil in sensitive polar bear habitat, without any concern for how that oil will impact the climate when it’s burned.”