Bad news, bears: You're doomed -- at least according to new findings from the US Geological Survey, which concludes that two-thirds of the world's polar bears will vanish by 2050. There will be none in Alaska. The predicted demise is not tied to hunting or chemical contamination, but rather warming. As the biologist who led the study told the Anchorage Daily News: "As the sea ice goes, so goes the polar bear." And the sea ice is going.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed listing the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in January 2007. A final decision on the listing is due in January 2008.
If ursus maritimus is ultimately listed under the ESA, then profound questions arise about what the federal government is legally bound to do to save the bear. The Christian Science Monitor examined the question in an earlier report which noted that more and more species-recovery plans under the ESA cite global warming as a "damaging factor" to "critical habitat." Does that mean that coal-fired power plants could be denied operating permits on the basis of the harm they cause polar sea ice? It seems unlikely, but a case could be made....