does belief in climate change determine the threat to polar bears? (hint: no)

We all know a warming arctic is leading to serious losses in sea ice, which is putting intense pressure on the future of polar bears. That’s a pretty simple, and accepted, observation. And as a result, the polar bear has become an important symbol in the fight to slow our changing climate. But it is not just a symbol. It is also a species under duress. For this reason, it has been designated a “threatened” species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

But, apparently in a turn of good news, the polar may may not actually be threatened. Because, as Fox News Legal Analyst Peter Johnson Jr. told his friends at Fox and Friends, the reality of the threat to polar bears really depends on whether or not you believe in climate change.

Here’s Fox News legal Analyst Peter Johnson Jr: “It really depends upon whether you believe the global warming is real, whether polar bears are actually threatened or not. This has become a big fundraising tool and it’s become a problem, too, for oil interests throughout the world because they have to act in a way that is very expensive in terms of making modifications.… So is global warming real or not real? I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s not really real.”

This is astonishing. And it is irrational and belies a total lack of reason. It is true that USFWS designations are complicated matters, but they are, and must be, based on far more than total population counts.  So you know what we do to determine if polar bears are actually threatened or not? Study polar bears. For real. Look at habitat, behavior, and threats. Study determining factors for the stability of the species, like critical habitat and the presence of sea ice, and what changes are occurring–say, in the climate–that might alter those critical habitats in the future. Listen to wildlife biologists who study the species in question, and climate experts, who study future impacts of carbon, and use real life science to do our best to look at future trends. In general, this process determines, for better or worse, species listing for Fish and Wildlife.

So when the DC Court upheld the US Fish and Wildlife designation of threatened for the polar bear, as they did this week, they were not just acting on their “belief” in global warming. They were looking at evidence from the past and what is likely to happen in the future.  And they made conclusions based upon the evidence.

In fact, Fox News Legal Analyst Peter Johnson Jr., the least important factor I can possibly imagine in determining “whether polar bears are actually threatened or not” is what anyone, anywhere, believes about global warming. Especially the friends at Fox and Friends. Personals beliefs have absolutely zero, zilch, nothing, to do with whether or not polar bears are threatened, or whether we landed on the moon, or whether climate change is happening, is man-made, and threatening the future of the earth’s wildlife.

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