Palin Misrepresented global warming science on Endangered Polar Bears…and Tried to Cover It Up
Just like “Bridge to Nowhere”, the facts contradict the campaign ads
[Update: 10.05.08] This post makes the point far better than I do:
Sarah Palin puts polar bears on thin ice
I recently listened to an extraordinary interview with University of Alaska marine sciences professor Rick Steiner, a world recognized expert. Professor Steiner tried to uncover the scientific basis for Alaska Governor Palin’s opposition to federal protections for polar bears under the Endangered Species Act, due to global warming and melting of the bear’s polar ice habitat. Palin sued the federal government to block those protections and wrote an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times that basically echoes the oil industry’s arguments: Bearing Up http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/05/opinion/05palin.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
According to Professor Steiner’s interview -Listen to the full interview on mp3 here: http://www.democracynow.org/2008/9/17/sarah_palin_and_global_warming_alaska
“First of all, a little context: Alaska–big business here is producing hydrocarbons, and so Alaska is in the business of producing carbon that ultimately winds up into the global atmosphere. So there’s this inherent political tension between the big business in Alaska–oil and gas–and the notion that carbon emissions are causing climate change that’s ground zero impacts right here in Alaska.
Anybody who runs for office in Alaska has to embrace totally the oil and gas business in order to have a chance of getting elected. That’s sort of the politic here. When Governor Palin was running for the governor’s mansion, she supported more oil and gas development and never mentioned a thing about the threat of climate change here in Alaska.
As soon as she took office is when Dirk Kempthorne, the Secretary of the Interior, announced that indeed polar bears were endangered. They were proposing to list them under the Endangered Species Act as threatened. Immediately after that, Governor Palin, then-Governor Palin–this is in December of ’06 or January of ’07–called him and opposed the listing, before they had ever looked at the science.
Subsequent to that, the state’s marine mammal experts–and there’s only three or four of them on the state payroll–looked at the federal proposed rule to list polar bears, sent a nice long memo that basically concluded that, yes, the federal science behind the listing, you know, documenting that polar bears are indeed threatened, was solid science, and they agreed with it.
Later in the year, the USGS, which does most of the research on polar bears, United States Geological Survey, put out nine studies. This was in September of ’07. And again, the state’s marine mammal scientists were asked to comment, to review that science, comment on it. They did, and they found that the conclusions were solid. That was the scientific work that predicted that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears would be gone by mid-century, and all of the polar bears off of Alaska would be gone. And then they had a caveat about that, saying they thought that was a conservative estimate and that it would probably happen faster than that.
So, here you have the state’s marine mammal experts, three or four of them, very reputable scientists, agreeing with the federal proposed rule to list polar bears and with the USGS studies showing that polar bears are in serious trouble, yet the governor maintaining her political position that polar bears are not threatened by anything, and they’re opposing the listing.
So what you had, essentially, was a situation where the governor made a political decision, not a scientific-based one, to oppose the listing. Secondly, she misrepresented the basis of her decision to the public, saying it was based on science, when indeed it really wasn’t, and then, thirdly, tried to conceal all of that, when I was simply asking for that scientific review to be released. So there’s three red flags there for the public. ”
Adding further outrageous detail, a quick Google discloses that Alaska had eliminated its own scientists and Palin’s decision was based on the analysis of a hired gun – a private consultant who had denied global warming.
According to the Alaska Daily News and many other scientists:
Political science – Lacking studies, state still disputes polar bear ‘doom’ By TOM KIZZIA
The state’s own scientific credibility hasn’t been helped by the fact that the Fish and Game Department no longer has any polar bear experts of its own.
The Palin administration’s effort to block action by raising uncertainty has moved the state to the dubious margins of scientific credibility, according to environmentalists.
“They’re not presenting a fair picture of the science,” said Deborah Williams, a former Interior Department official who now heads the climate nonprofit Alaska Conservation Solutions. “It’s a terrible disservice, to release something so irresponsibly biased.”
ALASKA AGAINST EVERYONE ELSE
Biologists who contributed to the federal endangered-species process have been told not to respond publicly to the state’s comments, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Their response will be incorporated in the final decision, the agency said.
But Andrew Derocher, one of Canada’s two top polar bear biologists, says the state is presenting a “bizarre” view of wildlife conservation.
“There’s a very clear consensus that the population in the Beaufort Sea is not doing well,” said Derocher, the current chairman of the international Polar Bear Specialist Group. “Polar bear scientists without exception are very concerned about the long-term preservation of the species.”
The state’s critique was based on the work of a consultant, J. Scott Armstrong, a University of Pennsylvania expert on mathematical forecasting who has elsewhere challenged former vice president Al Gore to a $10,000 bet on whether the globe is truly warming.
“They’ve done a clever thing,” said Jack Lentfer, a retired polar bear biologist who managed the last state polar bear program, switching to the feds after 1972. Lentfer thinks the state is ignoring the consensus of active researchers. “They’ve got someone who can write in a scientific way. But if you look at it, it doesn’t have any substance. They’re speaking in generalities.”
This story highlights many red flags and abuses we’ve seen by the Bush Administration:
1) misrepresentation and suppression of science for political objectives
2) slash budgets and replace public sector science with private consultants
3) gag scientists from communicating their findings to the public
4) allow oil industry to control government policy and science
Sarah Palin is a slick and dangerous threat – she carries the oil industry’s water, which, just like the “bridge to nowhere” is exactly the opposite of the claims she has made that she has taken on the oil industry in Alaska.
For additional reading, see:
Alaska editorial: Palin administration ignores bear science