U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken recently ordered the Interior
Department to decide by May 15 whether polar bears should be listed under provisions of the act.
If the polar bear is to be declared threatened it must be because the Interior Department accepts the forecasts of continued global warming, and a significant reduction in Arctic ice. There are two reasons why that decision, if it is made, will be momentous.
The first is the possible wide geographic reach of the global warming argument. The snail darter almost killed a single dam. The polar bear could, in theory at least, stop everything. Suppose someone wants to build a coal-burning power plant in Florida.
Environmentalists might challenge the construction on the grounds that the plant will emit greenhouse gases leading to global warming and an increased threat to polar bears.
The second impact of this ruling is that it will likely end all Arctic exploration for oil and gas, at least in the U.S. Given surging world demand for oil, increased supply is the only thing standing between us and $200-a-barrel oil.