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Financial Times: Concern for polar bear could signal shift in US policy on global warming

EXTRACT: Separately, Shell said yesterday it had hired Gale Norton, the former secretary of the Interior Department, to serve as a counsel for the Dutch oil giant. The announcement from the energy company comes as the Bush administration is expected to face increased scrutiny by Congress on its ties to the oil and gas industry. This could include questions about whether the Interior Department has adequately collected royalty payments from oil and gas groups extracting resources from federally owned land.

THE ARTICLE

By Stephanie Kirchgaessnerin New York
Published: December 28 2006 02:00 | Last updated: December 28 2006 02:00

Polar bears should be classified as a threatened species because global warming could cause their habitat to melt away, the Bush administration said yesterday.

The iconic arctic animals were being threatened by receding ice, said Dirk Kempthorne, secretary of the Interior Department, who stopped short of calling for an investigation into the causes of climate change, saying the issue was beyond his department’s remit.

“We need to just concentrate and focus on the species and its habitat,” he said, adding the administration of President George W. Bush had already spent $29bn (£14.7bn) researching climate change issues and related technology.

While the proposal did not represent a clear departure from the administration’s stance on global warming, it marked the first time the White House had pointed to climate change as a phenomenon that could threaten the survival of a species.

Administration officials said they proposed adding polar bears to the threatened species list because biologists of the US Fish and Wildlife Service feared that Alaska’s population of polar bears could experience a significant decline in the future.

There are thought to be between 25,000 and 30,000 polar bears worldwide, most living in Greenland and Norway. But almost 5,000 live mainly in Alaska and travel to Canada and Russia.

Recent scientific studies of adult polar bears in Canada and in Alaska’s Southern Beaufort Sea have found weight loss among the species and reduced cub survival. In Canada’s western Hudson Bay, the population of polar bears has already declined by 22 per cent.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will initiate a 12-month review of polar bears’ current and future status before determining whether the species should be placed on the threatened list.

Dale Hall, director of the organisation, said that, if the polar bear was placed on the threatened list, the service would engage groups ranging from Alaskans to native Americans to scientists to “sit down and help us craft a recovery plan”.

Although Mr Kempthorne said that the Fish and Wildlife Service would notbe asked to make a determination on why Arctic seaice was thinning, he emphasised that one potential environmental factor – oil and gas exploration – had “no negative impact on polar bears”.

The conclusion contradicted a separate statement by the service, which said that demands of oil and natural gas and other resources in Alaska had led to “some conflicts” between polar bears and humans.

Ed Markey, a senior Democratic lawmaker on the House energy committee, said that the development “may signal the beginning of the end” of the Bush administration’s policy of “global warming denial”.

“After giving the cold shoulder to conservation, Kyoto and better fuel economy standards, they seem to be warming up to protecting an icon of American wildlife,” Mr Markey said.

Separately, Shell said yesterday it had hired Gale Norton, the former secretary of the Interior Department, to serve as a counsel for the Dutch oil giant.

The announcement from the energy company comes as the Bush administration is expected to face increased scrutiny by Congress on its ties to the oil and gas industry. This could include questions about whether the Interior Department has adequately collected royalty payments from oil and gas groups extracting resources from federally owned land.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

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1 Comment on “Financial Times: Concern for polar bear could signal shift in US policy on global warming”

  1. #1 tim pellett
    on Jan 10th, 2007 at 14:07

    the new word in canada is gastards. shell oil is the bigist in canada

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