Well, it's that time of year again. Thanksgiving -- when everyone in the U.S. is supposed to be identifying what we are thankful for. I want to look ahead and think about what I hope to be thankful for. I hope to be thankful for the U.S. designating critical habitat for our beloved and imperiled polar bears!
A world without polar bears by the end of the century? That's what scientists are predicting unless we take action now. As global warming accelerates, the sea ice they depend on for survival is literally melting away. If polar bears are to survive into the next century, we must do everything we can to protect their sea ice habitat.
Global warming is melting Arctic sea ice at an alarming rate. Just yesterday, a report by UN climate scientist found that arctic sea ice is melting 40 percent faster than the panel estimated just a few years ago. Every year more and more polar bears are starving and drowning as they have to swim farther and farther to reach solid ice. Some are even turning to cannibalism in a desperate search for food. Two-thirds of all polar bears - including all bears in Alaska - will be extinct by 2050 if current trends continue. The rest of the species will be gone by the end of the century.
Since the 1997 Kyoto agreement, the level of carbon dioxide pollution has increased 6.5 percent, climate change has worsened and its impacts are greater than anticipated. Once frozen summer Arctic sea ice now has open ship passages. In Greenland and Antarctica, ice sheets have lost trillions of tons of ice. Glaciers in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa are shrinking faster than before.
Sea level has risen by about an inch and a half. Droughts and wildfires have turned more severe worldwide. And the species impacted are so many that the Center for Biological Diversity struggled to pare down the list to 350 for its "350 Reasons we need to get to 350ppm: 350 Species Threatened by Global Warming" web installation (http://350.biologicaldiversity.org).
The only way to prevent the complete loss of polar bears in the wild is to aggressively tackle global warming and institute strong protections for polar bear habitat to reduce other threats. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has been slow on tackling global warming and worse on protecting the polar bear's sea ice habitat.
In 2008, the Bush administration leased 2.7 million acres of prime polar bear habitat in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska to oil companies. Now, not only is the Obama administration defending these Bush-era leases, but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has issued permits to oil companies allowing harassment of polar bears during oil exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska, he has approved a new proposal to drill in the Beaufort Sea next summer and is considering a similar proposal for the Chukchi Sea.
The good news is it's not too late to save the polar bear if we join together and take immediate action. Thanks to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Obama administration has proposed designating more than 200,000 square miles of Arctic coastline and sea ice as critical habitat for the polar bear!
The administration is seeking comments on its proposed critical habitat now. Please tell the Obama administration that the proposed critical habitat is essential to the survival of the polar bear and that it must be protected against threats from offshore oil and gas drilling. Take action with the Center for Biological Diversity at http://mail.google.com/mail/?hl=en&tab=wm#inbox/12527f22b04c90a1 to make sure we don't have to face a world without polar bears.
As Eric left for his expedition to save the poles late last week, the U.S.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a global warming bill.
While we love to see action on global warming, this bill needs some big
changes for our beloved plant to stand a chance of avoiding climate
There are three fundamental problems with the bill that we need to address
as the bill moves through the Senate.
First, the bill would set an emissions reduction target far below what
scientists agree is necessary to stop global warming and ocean
acidification. Emission scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change indicate that the United States must reduce emissions 45
percent or more below 1990 levels by 2020 in order to stabilize the
atmosphere at a safe level of 350 parts per million or below. The Senate
bill is projected to reduce emissions just 4% below 1990 levels by 2020 -
far too little, too late.
Second, the bill would rollback one of our nation's most successful
environmental laws: the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act is our only
existing environmental law that could allow us to reach a goal of 350 ppm,
but the bill as it currently stands would remove the Act's authority to do
so. The bill would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from setting an
overall cap - such as 350 ppm -- on the permissible amount of carbon
pollution. Just when we need every tool in the toolbox to fight global
warming, the Senate bill would take away one of our most important tools.
Third, the bill's offset provisions are so vast and poor that they undermine
its modest emission-reduction goals. Economists have determined that many
industries will invest in dubious offsets instead of reducing their carbon
The political climate in Washington, D.C., is failing the very real,
physical climate of places like the poles, which have already changed for
the worse. Our elected leaders need to fix the problem, not apply false
band-aids. Join the Center for Biological Diversity and sign our petition
to President Obama and the Senate for strong global warming legislation that
1) sets an overall cap on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels of no more than
350 parts per million; 2) maintains the Clean Air Act's ability to curb
carbon pollution, and 3) eliminates or greatly reduces offsets and other
Center for Biological Diversity