Monday, May 11, 2009

Obama puts politics over polar bears

First, let's not forget that Obama just said NO to international action to protect the ozone layer.

And now, in short:
The Obama administration said Friday that it would retain a wildlife rule issued in the last days of the Bush administration that says the government cannot invoke the Endangered Species Act to restrict emissions of greenhouse gases threatening the polar bear and its habitat. Full article from NY Times.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar claims that polar bears are better protected overall climate and energy policy, and adds:
“The single greatest threat to the polar bear is the melting of Arctic sea ice due to climate change.” But, Mr. Salazar said, the global risk from greenhouse gases, which are generated worldwide, requires comprehensive policies, not a patchwork of agency actions carried out for particular species.
Some critics of the decision said it contradicted the approach the administration took when it chose to pursue restrictions on greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. That measure, which applies to national air pollution standards, is also not a perfect fit for a globally dispersed gas like carbon dioxide, they said.
Pragmatically speaking:

John Kostyack, executive director for wildlife conservation and global warming at the National Wildlife Federation, criticized the decision to retain the rule, which he said falsely asserted that there was no direct link between specific greenhouse gas emissions and the decline in the polar bear’s habitat.

But Mr. Kostyack said there was no way that the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Interior Department agency responsible for carrying out the Endangered Species Act, could handle the burden of trying to police emissions.

Just because emissions are currently not able to be regulated does not mean that the implications of a changing climate on vulnerable animal populations should be ignored. Even if this gesture could only be symbolic for the time being, America is allegedly on a route to capping and regulating emissions.

I used to feel that the reluctance was part of a larger political scheme to play games and do the right thing at the right time and make the right compromises. This excuse is wearing off. I'm feeling less and less confident sufficient environmental action will happen.

I would rather enrage opponents through fast and drastic environmental protections than enrage through wasting billions of dollars bailing out banks and failing automobile industries.

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