Endangered Earth
The Arctic Ice is Melting Fast
The Plight of the Polar Bear
Photo Credit Amanda Byrd

“If the Bush Administration proceeds to list the polar bear as an endangered species, it may signal the beginning of the end of its policy of global warming denial. After giving the cold shoulder to conservation, Kyoto, and better fuel economy standards, they seem to be warming up to protecting an icon of American wildlife. The threat of global warming goes well beyond a single species, and the new Democratic majority will certainly be taking a long, hard look at global warming and better protecting our national environmental treasures like the polar bear.”
Representative Edward Markey, Massachusetts
December 28, 2006

What is happening to our polar bear population?

As you can see in this picture, these polar bears are stranded on a melting glacier. They are probably already dead. This is no joke. Because of Global warming, the ice is melting, spring comes earlier, and winter later, the polar bears have less time to hunt to store food in their bodys. - madie August 24, 2007 SOURCE

Endangered species status of the polar bear to be decided May 15
April 29, 2008

A federal judge has ordered the Bush administration to stop delaying its decision on whether to list the polar bear as an endangered species. Environmentalists say the bear is threatened by melting sea ice in its Arctic habitat.

Judge Claudia Wilken of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled Monday that the Department of the Interior has violated the law by missing the deadline for filing a decision on the status of the polar bear by four months. She said the agency would have to arrive at a decision by May 15, 2008.

The Department of the Interior had sought to delay the decision until June 30, 2008. It had already missed a January 2008 deadline. 

Opposing Opinion

"Any more ideas on how to fool with humans?" 

Australian TV Exposes 'Stranded Polar Bear' Global Warming Hoax
Photo of Noel Sheppard.
By Noel Sheppard | April 6, 2007 - 12:05 ET 
News Busters

Remember that wonderful picture of stranded polar bears on an ice floe that were used by folks like soon-to-be-Dr. Al Gore to demonstrate how dire the man-made global warming issue is?

Well, ABC television in Australia, on a show called “Media Watch,” recently debunked the entire issue (video available here, h/t NB member dscott).

It turns out -- as NewBuster Jake Gontesky reported on March 20 -- the picture was taken in August, “when every year the fringes of the Arctic ice cap melt regardless of the wider effects of global warming.”

The photographer, Australian marine biology student Amanda Byrd, didn’t think the bears were in any jeopardy: 

"They did not appear to be in danger… I did not see the bears get on the ice, and I did not see them get off. I cannot say either way if they were stranded or not." - Amanda Byrd

Denis Simard of Environment Canada agreed:

    "You have to keep in mind that the bears are not in danger at all. This is a perfect picture for climate change…you have the impression they are in the middle of the ocean and they are going to die...But they were not that far from the coast, and it was possible for them to swim...They are still alive and having fun."

How delicious. Think this kind of broadcast would ever happen in America?

What follows is a full transcript of this segment. Furthermore, here are the e-mail questions answered by the photographer who took the picture. And, here is the full transcript of the interview “Media Watch” did with The Sunday Telegraph’s Neil Breen regarding this matter.

Those stranded polar bears on the shrinking Arctic ice - victims of global warming - certainly tugged at the heart-strings. That photo was published not only in the Sunday Telegraph. It made it onto the front page of the New York Times. And the International Herald Tribune. It also ran in London's Daily Mail, The Times of London and Canada's Ottawa Citizen - and that's just to name a few.

All used it as evidence of global warming and the imminent demise of the polar bear. But the photo wasn't current. It was two and a half years old.

And it wasn't snapped by Canadian environmentalists. It was taken by an Australian marine biology student on a field trip.

And in what month did she take it?

    “The time of year was August, summer.” - Email from Amanda Byrd to Media Watch

Summer, when every year the fringes of the Arctic ice cap melt regardless of the wider effects of global warming.

So were the polar bears stranded?

     “They did not appear to be in danger…I did not see the bears get on the ice, and I did not see them get off. I cannot say either way if they were stranded or not.” - Email from Amanda Byrd to Media Watch

And they didn't appear stranded to Denis Simard of Environment Canada. He told Canada's National Post.

    "You have to keep in mind that the bears are not in danger at all. This is a perfect picture for climate change…you have the impression they are in the middle of the ocean and they are going to die...But they were not that far from the coast, and it was possible for them to swim...They are still alive and having fun."
- The National Post (Canada), Gore pays for photo after Canada didn't, 23rd March, 2007

Polar bears are good swimmers. So how did all this come about? Photographer Amanda Byrd gave her photo to fellow cruiser, Dan Crosbie - to have a look.

     “Dan Crosbie gave the image to the Canadian Ice Service, who gave the image to Environment Canada, who distributed the image to 7 media agencies including AP.” - Email from Amanda Byrd to Media Watch

Associated Press released the photo two and a half years after it was taken, on the day the United Nations released its major global warming report. That's where Sydney's Sunday Telegraph got the photo, running it with a story taken from the Daily Mail as Neil Breen explains.

        "…the photograph represents polar bears standing on ice that’s melting. Now obviously there’s a disputed account of when that was taken now, and maybe it was taken in the Alaskan Summer when you would naturally expect ice to melt but at the time it was sent to us, Associated Press in their caption to us told us that the picture was taken of melting ice caps and to do with global warming and that it was sent to them by a Canadian ice authority and we had no reason to question it." - Statement from Neil Breen (Editor of the Sunday Telegraph) to Media Watch

But Amanda Byrd didn't think her photo necessarily described whether global warming is occurring.

       "I take neither stand, I simply took the photos...If I released the image myself, it would have been as a striking image. Nothing more." - Email from Amanda Byrd to Media Watch

That's not how Al Gore saw it. He used it in a presentation on man made global warming.

"Their habitat is melting... beautiful animals, literally being forced off the planet," Mr. Gore said, with the photo on the screen behind him. "They're in trouble, got nowhere else to go." Audience members let out gasps of sympathy… - The National Post (Canada), Gore pays for photo after Canada didn't, 23rd March, 2007

Well that's because they're bears… and at a distance, they're rather cute.

Noel Sheppard is the Associate Editor of NewsBusters.
SOURCE: http://newsbusters.org/node/11879

Polar Bear Facts
Photo Credit :US NAVY

Well so we have two opposing views on the plight of the Polar Bear... so I took the time to look up and see just how far they can actually swim if need be, and if they do make it back to land after drifting off on an ice flow... the first question was easy... the second will take some digging...

How far can they swim and for how long can they hold their breath?

Polar bears can swim steadily for many hours in order to get from one piece of ice to another. They have water-repellent coat and partially webbed feet, which both are adaptations to swimming. Although known individual bears have only been recorded swimming about 100 km or so, they are likely capable of swimming much further if necessary. However, this kind of effort is very expensive in terms of energy, so swimming such long distances is likely not done frequently. The longest a polar bear in the wild has been timed holding its breath while diving is 72 seconds. 

I added this next fact just in case you run into one... and I have been told that if you lie down and be still, you will most likely be lunch...

How fast can they run?

Polar bears don't normally like to run for long periods, but on a good surface a polar bear can reach speeds of 30 km/h (or 20 mph).

So one question remains... if all the ice melts in the Artic Ocean how will the Polar Bears fare?  It seems that they spend most of their time only out on the ice over the continental shelf... so effectively near land. 2500 are reported making Salvbard their home (Svalbard is a large island north of Norway and currently holds the Doomsday Seed Vault)

How far north can we meet polar bears – and how far south?

No reports have put polar bears exactly on the North Pole itself, but ca. 100 miles to the south, at 88°N. Thus, there is no doubt that there are polar bears in the vicinity of the North Pole, though they are probably not abundant because the ocean there is less biologically productive than it is over the continental shelf, at the edges of the polar basin and associated islands. There is little detailed  knowledge about polar bear migrations in the Polar Basin, since there has been little research carried on there. The Arctic Ocean basin is among the earth’s most remote areas, and the logistics and cost of such studies are limiting factors. However, there are numerous reports from polar explorers and expeditions that have encountered occasional polar bears in the permanent ice cap around the North Pole.

The furthest south that polar bears live on a year-round basis are in James Bay in Canada, where bears den at about 53°N on Akimiski Island. On a seasonal basis some bears appear regularly as far south as Newfoundland, and they have occasionally been seen in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in years when heavy pack ice have been drifting farther to the south than normal (latitude 50°N).

SOURCE:  Frequently Asked Questions about polar bears 

It would appear from these reports that if the Arctic Sea ice melts, that the Polar Bears would survive. As they also do well in Zoos, a warmer climate will not harm them.

Also it is important to note that while many people assume if the ice melts that sea levels will rise... If we are talking only the ice in the Arctic Ocean, this would not be the case... Water is the only substance that EXPANDS when it solidifies or 'freezes'. The ice then floating in the ocean displaces a LARGER volume of water than if it was melted... and as it melts their would actually be a small reduction of sea level..

Try it with a glass of water with ice cubes... as they melt the glass will not over flow.

This does not however include the glaciers on shore or all the snow, nor the ice and glaciers on Antarctica, nor the currentlt melting glaciers in the Himalays

The Great Arctic Circle Oil Rush
Polar Bear on Ice Flow

Melting icecaps are giving way to oil-rich waters -- that the U.S. can't claim, writes Fortune's Telis Demos.
FORTUNE Magazine reported on CNN Money
By Telis Demos, Fortune reporter
August 8 2007: 10:31 AM EDT

(Fortune Magazine) -- It's an irony that even Al Gore might appreciate. As global warming causes the polar icecaps to recede, potentially oil-rich seabeds are being uncovered beneath the Arctic Circle in the suddenly navigable -- and drillable -- territory.

The area has long been thought to hold substantial reserves: Some say up to 25% of the world's undiscovered oil and natural gas may lie below the thawing ice.

FROZEN OUT: The U.S. isn't part of Arctic territory talks.

But as the countries bordering the Arctic hammer out who can lay claim to what parts of the ocean, one major player is missing: the U.S. Why? Because of an unlikely spat between Big Oil and a group of Republicans over the UN treaty that governs who can claim rights to those waters.
The next energy crisis

Back in 1982, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea went into effect, a treaty that defined ocean boundaries and set up regulations for ship traffic. The U.S. signed the treaty in 1994, but the Senate refused to ratify it, opposing the idea of UN sovereignty.

But what was then just a diplomatic absence is now seen as a lapse in judgment that could cost billions of dollars. Under Law of the Sea, countries are entitled to control any waters above landmasses that extend from their continental shelf.

If the U.S. were to claim that entitlement, it would gain Arctic territory roughly half the size of Alaska. But since the U.S. is not a party to the treaty, many worry that it won't have a say before the North Pole is sliced up for good.

What's in the way? A small but vocal group of Senate Republicans who are fiercely opposed to participation -- and the notion that UN panels could trump U.S. control over resources.

Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan advisor and current president of the Center for Security Policy, has called the treaty the "most egregious transfer of American sovereignty, wealth, and power to the UN." Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) has said he'll use "whatever means it takes" to keep the U.S. from joining the treaty. That included leading the charge to kill a bill that surfaced for ratification in 2004.
Going nuclear

While there has been little commercial Arctic exploration so far, the potential is huge. London-based consultancy Wood Mackenzie estimates that at least 166 billion barrels of oil and gas might lie undiscovered in the near-shore Arctic. There could be much more in areas closer to the North Pole.

In potential U.S. territory alone there could be 15 billion barrels. With global reserves falling, any sizable field would be a prize.

An Arctic land grab is already well underway. In early June, Russian scientists claimed they found evidence of 70 billion barrels of oil and natural gas reserves on the Lomonosov Ridge, a huge rock formation that extends through the North Pole from Siberia to Greenland.

Russia has slapped a claim on nearly half the Arctic -- a territory of half a million square miles -- and granted a monopoly to its own companies to exploit it. Denmark is crying foul, saying it, too, has rights to the ridge.

The U.S. could play a huge diplomatic role in any negotiation, and without its involvement, many feel the borders will never truly be settled. "It makes exploration a lot more risky," says Paul Kelly, former general counsel at drilling firm Rowan Cos., since bankers, he says, won't put up the money for ventures in "murky waters."
Exxon Mobil gushes profits

The oil lobby has been working furiously to push past its Senate detractors -- and it is making some unlikely bedfellows in the process.

Lobbyists representing companies including Exxon Mobil (Charts, Fortune 500), Chevron (Charts, Fortune 500), and ConocoPhillips (Charts, Fortune 500) are allying with environmental groups, who want UN protection for Arctic wildlife and ecosystems, as well as with the U.S. Navy, which says it won't be able to patrol the Arctic effectively without the rights the treaty provides to the territory.

The consortium got a big boost in May when President Bush came out in support of ratification, breaking ranks with many members of his own party. New hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are set for this fall. Should things go well, a bill could hit the Senate by the end of the year.

Advocates are hopeful. "We've been pushing for this for years," says Brian Petty, a drilling industry lobbyist, "and I think now we'll finally get over the goal line."

The region's recent turf wars, they say, may give the issue a new sense of urgency. "The Russians have made their claim," says a committee aide. "If we don't act fast, we're missing the boat." 

SOURCE: FORTUNE Magazine reported on CNN Money

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