Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has an op-ed in today's New York Times that's pretty breathtaking (and I mean that in a Seinfeld kinda way). I won't go into a line-by-line rebuttal of her piece, but I just can't let this assertion pass:
The possible listing of a healthy species like the polar bear would be based on uncertain modeling of possible effects. This is simply not justified.
The Endangered Species Act--just like virtually ever other statute, policy, or rule that deals with complex scientific issues--simply does not require 100% certainty as a precondition for action. Rather, the Act requires that we protect species that are "likely" to become endangered based on the best available scientific information. And that's precisely the way it should be.
Whenever you deal with a complex system, whether you're talking about toxicology, or conservation ecology, or the effects of global climate change on the Arctic, the odds are slim that one will ever obtain 100% confidence in a particular cause-and-effect relationship before it is way too late to do anything about it. That's why most policies that deal with the regulation of complex natural systems are, to some degree or anther, precautionary in nature.
Moreover, there is actually very little uncertainty here. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that polar bears are in deep, deep trouble because of climate change. In fact, any uncertainty that does exits militates in favor of taking action, not against it. After this summer's record sea ice loss, it became clear that the majority of the climate change models have significantly under estimated the extent and speed of sea ice loss in the Arctic.
It is long past time for us to take serious steps to solve global warming and to protect the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act and to push past the sophistry of people like Governor Palin.