Hilzoy among many others has a touching piece on the recent decision to reclassify the polar bear Ursa maritimus as endangered. The reasons are fairly obvious. Polar bears have adapted to hunt marine mammals which depend on stable holes on the contiguous sheet of pack ice which once covered the Arctic Ocean in winter. In line with predictions for greenhouse warming the coldest parts of the Earth have warmed first, leaving polar bears with less and less pack ice on which to hunt every year. As the ice shrinks it pulls farther from shore and the patches pull back farther from each other, forcing polar bears to swim much farther than they ever have before. For that reason the bodies of exhausted, drowned polar bears have lately been spotted with alarming frequency. If things don’t turn around the species will die.
Hilzoy lists several things that we should do anyway, but don’t expect to save the polar bear. Global climate has a massive lag time between input and output. If we stopped producing any carbon today we would still have global levels far above anything seen since times when the Earth was much warmer. Bear in mind that global climate is really driven by the top few hundred meters of the sea, which has absorbed as much as half of all human-produced carbon and contains far more heat energy than the atmosphere. For climate to start changing back the ocean has to change back as well, and in the best of cases it will take years for the oceans to lose their thermal energy and breathe out the massive stores of carbon that they have already absorbed. Current trends such as carbon-driven acidification will need to turn around, and it won’t happen fast.
Let’s imagine that America manages to convince the global community to manage our carbon. That would take years and probably a new government on our part, but just put it out there. Even if the policies worked we would have some years to wait before anybody felt a difference. Take the polar bear’s desperate situation today, extrapolate ten years into the future and you have a dead species. I suppose that a sad subpopulation lingering in manmade zoos should count for something, but they will be permanent strangers from the world where they existed as a wild species.
Let me clear up one misunderstanding then: we won’t save the polar bears. The fate of Arctic sea ice was sealed some time during the Clinton era if not sooner. We should enact serious carbon mitigation policies not for the animals which are already at the brink, most of which will soon be gone, but for the endangered species we don’t know about yet. Odds are that some will prove more important to people than the distant polar bear.
I should correct myself before anybody else does – the polar bear has been proposed to be threatened, not endangered. While I don’t doubt that the next step will come in its own time, we aren’t there yet.
In the spirit of Dire Straits’ “My Par-ties,” they won’t be gone as long as they have them at the zoo.
Who goes to the North Pole anyway, besides Krista?
Jonah Goldberg says we should build big artificial ice rafts for them:
This is hilarious stuff. We should all just save up our ice cubes to dump them in the north atlantic near the ice cap. Sure, that’ll work!
You gotta love how he ends it:
As Atrios might say, “OOOOOWWWWWwww the Stupid! It burns!!”
We could feed them Jonah Goldberg. That might hold the bears for long enough to get climate turned around.
BTW, that was purely a jest and not indended as a real policy recommendation. Feeding people to bears, even very annoying people and very deserving bears, is wrong.
According the Bill Bennett rule, your gaffe is excused.
When I was in Alaska I heard all kinds of humorous anecdotes about people being eaten by polar bears. They have an odd sense of humor up in the Great White North. This one is still the stuff of legend.
I’m more of an optimist than you are, Tim. The value of the -doomed- threatened classification of the polar bears is like the classification of the bald eagle as endangered back in the seventies. It puts a recognizable and popular face on a real problem. Bush may not have meant to create the opportunity, but, were I a Democrat, I’d start a campaign to “save the polar bear” right now.
Hooray for China!
On a somewhat related note, I think we should all extend a warm round of applause to China. Its Three Gorges Dam has helped accomplish the extinction of the baiji, a dolphin indigenous to the Yangtze River.
20 million years of existence down the crapper- way to go, China! Now you’ve truly earned your rightful place among the mighty superpowers of the world. Keep up the good work:
You hear that, pandas! You’re next!
Demi, I think that the appropriate word is pragmatist. An optimist would argue that the polar bear can still be saved, which strikes me as extremely unlikely. A pragmatist would argue that it doesn’t matter so much whether we can save it as long as we can makes a potent symbol out of it.
The Other Steve
I like the idea of inviting Jonah Goldberg to dinner.
Sure it is. We all know where your loyalties lay Mr. Tim “I love bears”. If you love bears so much, why don’t you marry them? Rick Santorum warned us about people like you, and your bear marrying ways. Why don’t you move to Canada? I bet they’ll let you marry bears there.
At least until we manage to pack enough justices on the Supreme Court to say otherwise.
Sorry, Tim, but don’t you think that “Let’s imagine that America manages to convince the global community to manage our carbon” is a bit, well, rich? Seems that there’ve been a lot of convincing efforts going the *other* way the last few years.
TimF, perhaps it is at least possible that the Polar Bear can be saved by protecting a minimal population that would still have some genetic diversity that could repopulate the region when the climate problem has been reversed.
Please. I’d prefer a nice, fat, fishy-smelling walrus any day. You have seen the signs outside my pen that say “Don’t throw trash at the bears!” haven’t you?
Yes, that is possible. The two problems I see are that 1) it will take a very long time, and 2) by the time we are ready to rerelease them large maneating bears will sit near the bottom of an extremely long list of urgent problems demanding our attention.
Myrtle, climate change is a non-linear process. Even if we were to magically recapture all the carbon we’ve released into the atmosphere, there’s no clear reason to believe that the climate will return to the previous glacial/non-glacial cycle pattern. That depends on what conditions caused the pattern to emerge in the first place.
No, Tim’s right: the polar bear really is doomed. “Not waving, but drowning.”
oh right, there is also the problem that climate doesn’t just shift back and forth between two discrete steady states. There’s no guarantee that the world will go back to anything like it was before we started our little greenhouse experiment.
Well I can hope. I can’t stand the idea of an earth without the polar bear. Especially at our hands.
What happens, in theory, if you remove the predator at the very top of the food chain? (I assume nothing preys on polar bears.)
Massive seal overpopulation? Resulting in depletion of whatever fish the seals eat? Something like that?
Whatever the case may be, I’m pretty sure polar bears aren’t just some irrelevant part of the ecosystem you can pluck out and then plug back in later when the weather improves. It’s not a modular sofa.
What about polar bears in Churchill? Grizzlies and black and brown bears in Alaska?
The polar bear food supply does not disappear just because the ice disappears. The seals are still out there, as are fish.
I have a hard time believing the only way to successfully feed a wild polar bear population is to cover an arctic sea fringe with ice and have air holes watched over by wild polar bears.
They are a species of mobile animals, capable of moving into other feeding patterns, like hogs.
At any rate, I do agree that Gore has made a powerful film and, while it is advocacy and some parts are questionable, the basic call to action is grim and credible.
Polar bears are unique in being adapted to polar winter conditions, which will always be very harsh. Some of those adaptations are quite remarkable.
(For instance, polar bears sequester a toxic amount of vitamin D in their livers during the summers. They use that material during the winter, when they get no sunlight at all for several months, and thus cannot synthesize it.)
It’s unlikely that any other animal could acquire those adaptations in short order.
OK, look, I despise Jonah G as any good person ought, but – in the name of possibly saving the polar bears – would huge artificial ice floes help at all?
Because if they would, I’m all for ’em.
Yes, it would be a palliative, a Band-Aid, that wouldn’t improve GCC one iota.
But would it help keep wild-living Arctic Polar Bears around until the ice came back?
Has this “fact” been established to any reasonable degree? Because others are claiming differently:
Tune in this Sunday, when it happens live on TV. Brett Favre is coming out on a stretcher. Urlacher is quite deserving, I might add.
OK, Darrell, you like pie. Now, about those WMDs and that yellowcake. Any progress on that?
“Nature Finds a Way”
This actually happened–we had this convo at a casino poker table last nite, and one guy actually had the audacity to say–and he was adamant–that any animal that eats humans need not be saved. Said–repeatedly–if we can’t pet it, we ought not help it. Took every last shread of self-control to not leap across the table and correct him with some timely haymakers.
To these idiots, the “food chain” is a line of grocery stores. Incredible.
Why would that make you so angry that you fantasized about inflicting a violent beating on him? Do you think humans have such great control over mother nature, that we can exert any significant control over what species come and go?
The polar bears drown while trying to get food because the ice isn’t there anymore.
I will let this fine example of Darrell’s complete stupidity stand as is. There’s really nothing more I could add to it.
Well, it’s only fair. If the situations were reversed, you can bet the polar bears wouldn’t lift a paw to help us out. Anyway, taking their money is the best way to show ’em.
Darrell: Duh, humans don’t control nature.
Darrell: Duh, most people don’t trust gays.
Darrell: Duh, Saddam had WMDs. Just because we didn’t find them after taking Iraq doesn’t mean he didn’t have them.
Darrell: Duh, the incinerated kids in Lebanon got what they deserved.
Darrell: Duh, Ford was such a great president he couldn’t even beat Jimmy Carter.
Darrell: Duh, you lefties are all dishonest.
John Cole: Duh, please don’t insult Darrell.
Just another day at Balloon-Juice, home of Darrell and his other brother Darrell.
Don’t doubt it for a second. If a cow had the chance, he’d eat you too.
seen any dodos or passenger pigeons lately ?
They evolved into the Republican Leadership.
No, I don’t watch FoxNews.
Those Passenger Pigeons were just out for a free ride anyway. And the Dodo’s extinction wasn’t the result of mankind, just market forces.
Darrell, please tell ONE species (aside from bacteria and viruses) that humans COULDN’T eliminate if they needed to…
Buffalo? Almost…we shot them for fun. Manatees? Boat props work wonders on soft flesh. Sperm whales? (heh heh)…Last time I checked, Ivory Billed Peckers and Dodos were deep-sixed due to humans…
I must protest that blatant falsehood. You can still find plenty of them serving as Republicans in Congress.
Let’s outfit them with some Zebcos, Stren’s 8-lb test, and a $1 million grant to Jimmy’s Bait Shack.
Fish. Problem. Solved.
We haven’t had much luck eliminating cockroaches and mosquitos, have we?.. and that’s despite one hell of an effort.
I award Darrell a point for this comment, although of course I’m grading on a curve.
You’ve given us a link from the NRO, a opinion journal, (no they ain’t biased!) that sites one unnamed Canadian biologist, as proof that “others are claiming differently”. Mind you the link to the original article in the NRO piece is broken, and others, should not be plural, since only one was sited.
How about here
A nice wide variety of scientists, all saying about the same thing.
Or hell use Google if you don’t like the link I gave you.
But typing them to stakes and using their plaintive cries about repealing the estate tax to attract said bears to feeding stations is perfectly legitimate, in my book.
Here is a reprint of that article since the paper wants to charge $$ to read back issues. It was written by
He must be funded by big oil, huh?
That’s right, cockroach and polar bear. In DarrellWorld, the same thing. One’s brown, the other white. What’s the big deal?
Oh, and there’s more :
Oh my, and then there’s this too
Hall’s study is one of many that are looking at Arctic and Antarctic regions in an effort to understand global climate change and how human activity is affecting natural cyclical changes in the Earth’s climate.
What! You mean research scientists working with National Academy of Sciences don’t know that man is THE MAIN cause of global climate change? What is the world coming to?
Wow. I never knew that the bears were capable of matriculation.
This blog is so educational.
People who defend the bombing of children?
The proposed US action on polar bears that made the news this week is the culmination of a comprehensive TWO-YEAR study of polar bear populations by the Bush Interior Department. That’s the same department that, up until recently, was headed by Gale Norton, about the hackiest pro-business hack you could ever hope to imagine. So they haven’t exactly been prone to list dozens of new endangered species or to acknowledge negative effects from climate change, to say the least.
I’m pretty sure that if Nunavut thinks they know something about polar bear populations that we don’t, they’ll let us know. We have a close diplomatic relationship with them, after all.
The Other Steve
So if you like Satan, you are prohibited from harming human beings out of some sort of weird Darrell logical inconsinstency rule?
Yeah, that makes sense.
Wait, back up. How did we get to Satan? Are you sure you don’t mean Stan? Or Satin? Or Lucifier, Lord of Morning, God’s Voice on Earth and The Morningstar?
You mean the Adversary? Diabolos? The Tempter? Old Horney? The Accuser? The Prince of Darkness? Old Nick? The Old Dragon? Lusty Dick? Old Scratch? The Black Bogey? The Angel of Rome? Is that who you mean?
Yeah, a real “unbiased” conclusion, given they were trying to avoid unending litigation from (leftwingnut?)environmental groups
Yeah, I’m sure there was no politics involved there. Only science, right?
It’s so amusing to see how your mind works.
That fuckin’ breaks my heart. I’ve had a hard time reading articles about the decline of polar bear populations. They’re such beautiful, majestic, wonderfully adapted animals.
Is there some kind of Prince of Stupid competition goin’ on, or a National Stupid Medal with Idiocy Cluster up for grabs, or something? Can I vote? Darrell almost makes me believe in (Un)Intelligent Design; this level of stupid couldn’t evolve.
Methinks you underestimate the potential effects of environmental pollutants.
I wouldn’t be quite so pessimistic- polar bears are a wide-ranging species, and apparently they are capable of surprising things when forced to adapt: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/05/bear-hybrid-photo.html
As John Cole points out, even if the world were suddenly to get its act together and reduce the carbon load, it will take a very long time to reduce the carbon buildup that has accumulated over many years. Even so, carbon sinks and a halt to deforestation could help bring back the balance, and maybe we’ll get a volcanic eruption or two to buy us some time by lowering global temperatures. The horrifying but very real prospect of a limited nuclear exchange would also cool things off- global warming, meet nuclear winter: http://www.international.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=59428
It also spawned a pin of similar design, which Teh Hillary was photographed wearing when she visited around that time. Yet another reason for Hillary Hate – she’s objectively pro-mauling by bears.
The politically correct term is Evolution through Natural Selection.
Aha! I’ve been watching you, troubleshooter, and you finally slipped up! Only a reality-based-secular-humanist-darwinian-atheist would say such a thing.
Friend Computer urges you to seek the nearest disintegration pad; your atoms are needed elsewhere.
Aha! You have identified yourself as a mutie-commie-liberal-traitor by demonstrating you know about reality-based-secular-humanist-darwinian-atheists.
Friend Computer requires you atone for this treason through immediate self-termination.
A couple of minutes search with Google turns up this article (URL below), which says that Canada increased the polar bear hunt quota by 30% in one region in 2005, with the representative of the region being, you guessed it, the polar bear biologist who says the bear populations are doing fine.
Since we’re talking about a matter of science, rather than religion, there’s at least a little bit of disagreement to be expected about the extinction of the polar bears. It’s probably just wishful thinking on my part, but I hope the general consensus is wrong on this.
Congratutulations Citizen TenguPhule! You have been upgraded to Troubleshooter status for reporting the subversive activities of Communist mutant demimondian:
However, Red Security Clearance does not entitle you to knowledge of self-termination procedures. Please report to Alpha Complex Subsector B-5 for immediate termination.
Friend Computer reminds you — in the most helpful, supportive, and kindly fashion possible — that, when speaking on its behalf, one should not use such distasteful terms as “termination”. They cause the uninformed to question the Friendliness(TM) and Benevolence(R) of Our Friend, which can lead to untoward behaviors, or, worse, thoughts.
In particular, your phrasing appears to have cause Citizen TenguPhule some concern, which has led him further into his pattern of treachery and deceit. Under the circumstances, Friend Computer — who *is* your Friend, and who wants only the best for you — recommends that you direct your happy steps to Subsector B-7, there to enhance the experiences of the atoms that are you by permitting them to be used by others.
I’m totally stealing this phrase. I don’t know when or how I’ll use it, but I’m stealing it anyway.
dem-R-BJU-2, or may I call you demimondian?
You presume to speak for Friend Computer yourself! When Friend Computer terminates a Commie mutant, the terminations are only performed in the most friendly and benevolent manner possible. To suggest that Friend Computer cannot perform a friendly and benevolent termination leads me to believe that you are a member of PURGE.
Furthermore, cleaning up this briefing room after Troubleshooter Darrell self-terminated by swallowing an Illuminati detonator disguised as an algae burger has led to an increased minimum security clearance level, which you are not entitled to know. As you are now in violation of this security clearance, you are not entitled to live. Please set your laser on overload. For the glory of Friend Computer.
dem-R-BJU-3 should report to the new Red level briefing room as soon as possible.
I will not be lured into traitorous thinking by your Illuminati-inspired plotting! You and yours are projecting your own insecurity and desire to supplant Friend Computer onto others. I was merely reciting the contents of a briefing which all Red level troubleshooters now receive on a regular basis, as a part of Friend Computer’s continuing PATRIOT Activity At Alert Code Brown (PAAACB). It is…interesting…that you appear to be unaware of it’s contents.
But this is beside the point. We are both busy folk, and this is wasting our time. Can you do me a favor? Would you go test the laser cannon over there?
*Demi, wisely, absents himself from the scene while Andrew tests the laser cannon, and, in so doing, frees his atoms from their previous bondage.*
Putting my demi pseudo back on…I always viewed the _Paranoia_ universe as being best realized when the computer was not only crazy, but crazy in a smarmy-happy way. Not only is dissent not permitted in Alpha Complex, the very ideas which would breed dissent are forbidden. Instead of an Orwellian NewSpeak, though, the Computer mandates a kind of “PR speak”, in which there are no “terminations”, merely “transfers of atomic ownership”, there are no “traitors”, but rather “individuals seeking to server Friend Computer in ineffective ways”, and so on.
I found it made the game a lot more horrifying to play, though. Marketing speak, after all, is incredibly Orwellian, and players found it incredibly frustrating that they couldn’t ever say anything angry, even though the computer was totally screwing them over in a thoroughly sadistic way.
You know, you keep forgetting that Pooh lives farther north than I do. So please direct your Santa Claus/North Pole/Arctic Circle-esque jokes to him, please and thank you.
Well, I was just channeling Darrell, so I’ll forward your request to him.
I’m sure he’ll comply, seeing as how he holds you in such high esteem.
/made myself laugh
Personally I found great enjoyment in employing New-Speak to convey the information of fellow players sudden and unfortunate release from their atomic bondage. But then I do enjoy gallows humor. :P
And my clearance is Magenta, which is above your security clearance to know.
Friend Computer hopes you have a nice day as your molecules are returned to serve the common good in today’s Soylent Blue.
And then there’s this. It was quoted in a newsletter like this so copyright should be ok.
“WHY IT IS SILLY TO PREDICT DEMISE OF POLAR BEARS
The Toronto Star, 1 May 2006
Tim Flannery is one of Australia’s best-known scientists and authors. That doesn’t mean what he says is correct or accurate. That was clearly demonstrated when he recently ventured into the subject of climate change and polar bears. Climate change is threatening to drive polar bears into extinction within 25 years, according to Flannery. That is a startling conclusion and certainly is a surprising revelation to the polar bear researchers who work here and to the people who live here. We really had no idea.
The evidence for climate change effects on polar bears described by Flannery is incorrect. He says polar bears typically gave birth to triplets, but now they usually have just one cub. That is wrong.
All research and traditional knowledge shows that triplets, though they do occur, are very infrequent and are by no means typical. Polar bears generally have two cubs – sometimes three and sometimes one. He says the bears’ weaning time has risen to 18 months from 12. That is wrong. The weaning period has not changed. Polar bears worldwide have a three-year reproduction cycle, except for one part of Hudson Bay for a period in the mid-1980s when the cycle was shorter.
One polar bear population (western Hudson Bay) has declined since the 1980s and the reproductive success of females in that area seems to have decreased. We are not certain why, but it appears that ecological conditions in the mid-1980s were exceptionally good.
Climate change is having an effect on the west Hudson population of polar bears, but really, there is no need to panic. Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present.
It is noteworthy that the neighbouring population of southern Hudson Bay does not appear to have declined, and another southern population (Davis Strait) may actually be over-abundant.
I understand that people who do not live in the north generally have difficulty grasping the concept of too many polar bears in an area. People who live here have a pretty good grasp of what that is like to have too many polar bears around.
This complexity is why so many people find the truth less entertaining than a good story. It is entirely appropriate to be concerned about climate change, but it is just silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years based on media-assisted hysteria.
Dr. Mitchell Taylor, Polar Bear Biologist,
Department of the Environment, Government of Nunavut, Igloolik, Nunavut
Copyright 2006, The Toronto Star”
No, actually, that’s the exact same guy from Nunavut Darrell brought up yesterday, writing the exact same column Darrell brought up yesterday.
It’s positively hilarious how all it takes is the disagreement of one guy from Nunavut for the Darrells of the world to proclaim “the jury is still out!” Of course, everything Republicans believe is rock-solid, even if there are millions of dissenters. It shows you how dysfunctional a thought process you need to believe the things people like Darrell believe.
It is funny, and of course sad. There’s no notion of “preponderance of evidence” or “informed opinion” or “scientific consensus”. Evolution and cosmology in general are in the same boat.
And why, pray tell, should we worry about the fate of those godless killing machines? Sure, they look cute, but they doesn’t make them any less deadly.
Shorter Darrell: Global warming? I’ll have Nunavut.
Why the hell would we want to eliminate roaches and ‘skeeters? Have you NO concept of a food chain, Darrell? What do you think small birds and mammals eat?
Therein lies the rub–what humans deem a disposible species, others deem necessary. Darrell seems to have failed basic biology.
Nicely done, sir!
I actually cited two articles yesterday here on this thread, not one. This guy from Nunavut btw, is not just some blogger, he’s a Canadian govt. employee whose job it is to track and monitor polar bears. Not sure if there could even be a more authoritative source on polar bear populations and population trends than this guy and his government dept.
But since you’re mocking him, you would think that his widely circulated opinion would have been refuted by now.. by someone, right? Where is it? Given that you haven’t produced anything refuting it, I can certainly see how you’d mock the source. After all Steve, you’re standing on such “solid” ground with your one Dept of Interior ruling which was made to help placate lawsuits from environmental activists.
To follow your “logic” then we should never try and kill mosquitos and roaches, because to do so would interrupt the food chain, and that’s whats most important, right halfwit? God you leftists are idiots.
Shorter Darrell: It’s everything or nothing. Moderation is for tree-hugging liberals.
Still running scared from John, eh Darrell?
Notice how, on Planet Darrell, this has now become gospel.
Yesterday, it was pure speculation… gee, maybe they did this because they were getting sued? Today, with no additional evidence provided, it’s magically become the gospel truth. The Department of Interior only took action to help placate lawsuits from activists. It’s presented by Darrell as settled fact.
Very honest of Darrell, don’t you all think? This is how he argues, time and time again.
Minor point, but you’re technically correct. The article said that the Interior dept. made the ruling in response to lawsuits from 3 environmental advocacy groups. So yeah, it’s possible that politics had nothing to do with their ruling.
Doesn’t change the fact that back on Planet Steve, you were mocking an authoritative source on polar bear population trends because.. well, because you thought it sounded cool to do it.
That’s right. Our government and its employees are models of efficiency, excellence, and expertise.
Krista, that’s not fair. The Canadian government is a model of efficiency compared to, say, outright anarchy.
And much tidier, too!
I dunno, Krista, have you seen Duane’s cubicle down in the taxation department?
Umm..yeah, but when I said “a model of efficiency”, I meant that it modeled the efficiency of an outright anarchy. Sorry to have misled you.
Feed the enviromentalists wackos to the polar bears then we wont have to have any enviromentalists wackos to bug us anymore