Where’s Winter?

Lost at Sea

News update:

The global-warming signs are coming thick and fast anymore; it’s no surprise to us, considering we still don’t bother with a jacket and it’s almost New Year’s Day. We’ll get used to it, because our beloved District of Columbia has now officially moved up a climate zone. Here’s the rundown, just off today’s/yesterday’s MSM sites:

  • Check out this Arbor Day Foundation map — half the country’s seen real change in temps since 1990. This graphic shows the shift dramatically. It’s a great persuader to show to those skeptics who scoffed at you over turkey this past Christmas.
  • Some more on Wind Energy — it’s got shortcomings (wind doesn’t blow on hot days when energy use peaks) and it’s still pricier than coal. A CO2 tax would balance that out….
  • Meanwhile, Tide Power is more reliable, with a few pilots in Brazil, Canada, and NYC.
  • The ice is cracking, or just never forming, and polar bears are left at sea, probably for good.

The polar-bears story is interesting. The Interior Department wants to classify polar bears as threatened due to shrinking sea ice, because the bears need the ice in order to hunt. (Here’s the text of the proposal for all those who like reading long, long .pdf files.) The shrinking ice is a direct consequence of climate change, which the EPA just argued is too unproven to justify environmental regulation. Interior is going one way, and EPA is going another.

So are we due for some Inter-Agency Smackdown? Read On!

So are we due for some Inter-Agency Smackdown? Doesn’t look like it. According to the NYT, the Bush administration still has a tight leash on the message:

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said that although his decision to seek protection for polar bears acknowledged the melting of the Arctic ice, his department was not taking a position on why the ice was melting or what to do about it.

While the Bush administration “takes climate change very seriously and recognizes the role of greenhouse gases in climate change,” Mr.Kempthorne said, it was not his department’s job to assess causes or prescribe solutions. “That whole aspect of climate change is beyond the scope of the Endangered Species Act.”

First of all, Dirk Kempthorne is an outstanding name (seriously — Dirk Kempthorne. We encounter strong, upper-crusty overtones with barely a hint of cliche), but he needs to re-read his Endangered Species Act. For fun, let’s play a game of “Dirk says/ESA says” with outtakes from the NYT text above:

Dirk says: “Kempthorne said … it was not his department’s job to assess causes or prescribe solutions.”

ESA says: “The purposes of this Act are to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species,…” Section 2(b)

Dirk says: “Kempthorne said … his department was not taking a position on why the ice was melting or what to do about it.”

ESA says: as far as what to do about it, “The Secretary shall develop and implement plans (hereinafter in this subsection referred to as “recovery plans”) for the conservation and survival of endangered species and threatened species….” Section 4(f)(1)

In short, “why it’s happening” and “what to do about it” are precisely what he’s supposed to be spending his day on.

We know, we know. Dirk is just trying to get the polar bear on “threatened” list, while trying not to embarass his boss on global warming. But the Endangered Species Act makes it clear that naming a threatened species isn’t the end of the job, it’s the beginning. He’s required to use the best science available (all of which points to man-made greenhouse gases as a culprit) and to protect the habitat of threatened or endangered species.

Git to work Dirk!


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