Are polar bears going to save the planet from global warming?
Today was an energy trifecta in the U.S. Senate: you could see Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman testifying on the energy sections of the President’s new budget, find out about the Bush administration’s political manipulations of climate science, or talk about global warming and wildlife.
Charismatic mega fauna (CM) fan that I am, I headed for the wildlife hearings, held by the (who makes up these names?) Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Senator Joe Lieberman.
...Senator Inhofe was up next, and he was having no part of any hand wringing about cute polar bears or anything else: “Animals are fun and fuzzy and I love them, but they can be used to advance another agenda.” He claimed that environmentalists were using love for wildlife to seek “political changes they can’t get through science alone… [Environmentalists want to] “shut down development” across the U.S.
...However, the expert witnesses before the subcommittee did not join in Senator Inhofe’s furious attacks on the science behind global warming, largely contradicting everything Inhofe had just said. Dr. Brendan Kelly, who has worked with Inuit hunters for much of his career, said that the summer ice cover in the Arctic had decreased 26% in his career.
...As to whether climate change was happening or not, Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, one of the country’s most distinguished ecological scientists, talked about how the evidence for climate change had shifted from the anecdotal evidence he cited in his first book to “signals in nature” that were unrebuttable: changes in the times of flowering, migrations, nest building, and egg laying. Because every species would respond to climate change at its own rate, ecological communities would start to “disassemble,” as mismatches occurred between, say, caterpillars and the availability of the plants they eat.
Lovejoy said that most prominent system change to date was the increasing acidity of the oceans as they absorbed some of the excess carbon dioxide. The oceans are now 30% more acidic than they were in pre-industrial times. “Two-thirds of the earth’s surface is changing its chemistry,” Lovejoy said. ...