Dubya may not believe in it, but global warming is real, and it's presenting a real and present danger to, among others, polar bears. According to the December 2005 issue of The National Geographic (read an excerpt online), not only is the ice the bears depend on breaking up earlier every year, but the deficit in nutrition caused by this earlier breakup leads to reduced weight and fat reserves as well as to higher mortality among cubs.
Polar bears depend entirely on sea-ice to survive. Many are stranded on land during the summer months, where they await the return of sea-ice strong enough for them to travel and hunt upon. But as the sea ice retreats sooner and returns later, the bears are facing prolonged fasts before the hunts start again.
If this ice free period gets any longer, it will be most problematic for female bears who need to store enough fat to last throughout a pregnancy, as indeed it is already in the southern part of their range. An ever-decreasing feeding season could seriously damage the bear's reproduction.
In the last two decades, Arctic ice cover has retreated 5 percent and the ice that has left has lost at least 30 percent of its thickness; and an average of two weeks have been lost from the bear's hunting season.
During this lost period the bears are reduced to scavenging through bins in built up areas and are seen as nuisances by local communities such as Churchill in Manitoba. Here almost every winter they have to 'arrest' the polar bears and either keep them contained until the snow comes or airlift them further north so that they can start their hunt again.
Search Results for Polar Bear at greenpeace.org
Unfortunately for the bears and all the other species, including humans of Native tribes, who depend on the Arctic winter remaining cold, Dubya has powerful allies. While it is true that some powerful petroleum and auto industry leaders such as Shell, BP, and Ford have dropped their opposition to the notion of human fueled climate change, some very powerful corporations and their shills, some of them in Congress and the admin., continue to proclaim that the science on which the concept of global warming is based is suspect, unproven, or downright incorrect.
Consider attacks by friends of ExxonMobil on the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). A landmark international study that combined the work of some 300 scientists, the ACIA, released last November, had been four years in the making. Commissioned by the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum that includes the United States, the study warned that the Arctic is warming "at almost twice the rate as that of the rest of the world," and that early impacts of climate change, such as melting sea ice and glaciers, are already apparent and "will drastically shrink marine habitat for polar bears, ice-inhabiting seals, and some seabirds, pushing some species toward extinction." Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was so troubled by the report that he called for a Senate hearing.
Industry defenders shelled the study, and, with a dearth of science to marshal to their side, used opinion pieces and press releases instead. "Polar Bear Scare on Thin Ice," blared FoxNews.com columnist Steven Milloy, an adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute ($75,000 from ExxonMobil) who also publishes the website JunkScience.com. Two days later the conservative Washington Times published the same column. Neither outlet disclosed that Milloy, who debunks global warming concerns regularly, runs two organizations that receive money from ExxonMobil. Between 2000 and 2003, the company gave $40,000 to the Advancement of Sound Science Center, which is registered to Milloy's home address in Potomac, Maryland, according to IRS documents. ExxonMobil gave another $50,000 to the Free Enterprise Action Institute-also registered to Milloy's residence. Under the auspices of the intriguingly like-named Free Enterprise Education Institute, Milloy publishes CSRWatch.com, a site that attacks the corporate social responsibility movement. Milloy did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this article; a Fox News spokesman stated that Milloy is "affiliated with several not-for-profit groups that possibly may receive funding from Exxon, but he certainly does not receive funding directly from Exxon."
Setting aside any questions about Milloy's journalistic ethics, on a purely scientific level, his attack on the ACIA was comically inept. Citing a single graph from a 146-page overview of a 1,200-plus- page, fully referenced report, Milloy claimed that the document "pretty much debunks itself" because high Arctic temperatures "around 1940" suggest that the current temperature spike could be chalked up to natural variability. "In order to take that position," counters Harvard biological oceanographer James McCarthy, a lead author of the report, "you have to refute what are hundreds of scientific papers that reconstruct various pieces of this climate puzzle."
Nevertheless, Milloy's charges were quickly echoed by other groups. TechCentralStation.com published a letter to Senator McCain from 11 "climate experts," who asserted that recent Arctic warming was not at all unusual in comparison to "natural variability in centuries past." Meanwhile, the conservative George C. Marshall Institute ($310,000) issued a press release asserting that the Arctic report was based on "unvalidated climate models and scenarios...that bear little resemblance to reality and how the future is likely to evolve." In response, McCain said, "General Marshall was a great American. I think he might be very embarrassed to know that his name was being used in this disgraceful fashion."
Sen. McCain is a doughty advocate for climate science and the creatures it aims to protect. But, with the weight of the U.S. admin. And several reps and senators behind the anti-climate change disinformation campaign, not to mention Exon/Mobile and their army of institutes, journalists and other assorted mouthpieces, the polar bears and their friends may be fighting a losing battle.