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Anchorage Daily News: Lacking studies, state still disputes polar bear 'doom'

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Ken Taylor has had easier jobs than this one. It’s not like the good old days chasing rhinos, climbing into bear dens and wrestling beluga whales in shallow water.

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These days, sitting at a desk as deputy commissioner of fish and game, the veteran wildlife biologist has to muster the best science he can find to argue that Alaska’s polar bears are in good shape and need no special protection from hypothetical doomsday scenarios.

This requires Taylor to stand up to the prevailing wisdom about global warming in most of the world’s scientific community and the public — not to mention some pretty strong opinions in his own department.

But Taylor, the Palin administration’s point man on polar bears, argues that the scientific justification simply isn’t there — at least not yet — to declare the polar bear “threatened” and touch off a cascade of effects under the Endangered Species Act. A decision on the bears is expected from the U.S. Department of the Interior in the next few weeks.

“From my perspective, it’s very difficult to put a population on the list that’s healthy, based on a projection 45 years into the future,” Taylor says. “That’s really stretching scientific credibility.”

The state also pokes at studies used to predict the future of polar ice, quoting at length from the climate scientists’ own demurrals about margins of error. The chain of predicted problems following from those studies are based on “unsupported conjecture,” the state says.

The state’s critique was based on the work of a consultant, J. Scott Armstrong, a University of Pennsylvania expert on mathematical forecasting who has elsewhere challenged former vice president Al Gore to a $10,000 bet on whether the globe is truly warming.

Written by climatebet

January 27th, 2008 at 5:16 pm

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