Swans Commentary » swans.com July 2, 2007  



Global Warming Gag Orders


by Jan Baughman


A Cartoon



(Swans - July 2, 2007) 

Pic: Global Warming Gag Orders - © 2007 Jan Baughman - Size: 26k
Global Warming Gag Orders - © Jan Baughman 2007


While polar bears struggle for their very existence with the melting of their Arctic habitat, biologists at the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are forbidden from discussing polar bears, climate change, or sea ice during foreign travel without prior approval to assure they understand the government's policy on these matters.

A March 2007 memo to the Alaska division of FWS stated,

Please be advised that all foreign travel requests (SF1175 requests) and any future travel requests involving or potentially involving climate change, sea ice and/or polar bears will also require a memorandum from the regional director to the director indicating who'll be the official spokesman on the trip and the one responding to questions on these issues, particularly polar bears.

In January of 2007, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a one-year review of whether polar bears should be listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This action stemmed from a February 2005 petition to add polar bears to the list, submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity (and later joined by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace). The groups ultimately had to file a court order to force a response to their petition. If polar bears make the list, environmental changes would be warranted to protect their habitat, meaning that action would be required to curb carbon emissions, oil drilling, and other activities that threaten their existence.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) elevated the polar bear to Vulnerable status (at high risk of extinction) in 2006, stating that "it is suspected that there will be a population reduction of at least 30% over the next 45 years as a result of this habitat loss and declining habitat quality. Other threats to the population include pollution, and disturbance from shipping, recreational viewing, oil and gas exploration and development, and potential risk of over-harvesting (as a result of both legal and illegal hunting) in future."

The polar bear has become a canary in the global coalmine, in a climate of political posturing over control of natural resources and the preservation of a way of life that could be threatened were the US government to acknowledge the potential demise of this precious mammal. We need to speak out on behalf of not only the polar bears, but also the government scientists who are forbidden to do so.


Memos Tell Officials How to Discuss Climate Change
Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times, March 8, 2007

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Petition
Finding and Proposed Rule To List the Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) as
Threatened Throughout Its Range; Proposed Rule
Federal Register: January 9, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 5)

US Fish & Wildlife Service Endangered Species Program

World Conservation Union
2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Union of Concerned Scientists


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Other Cartoons by Jan Baughman

Mandate 2006 (June 2007)

Operation Iraqi Freedom (March 2007)

Every Vote Counts (February 2007)

The "New" Way Forward (January 2007)

Viva La Revolución (November 2006)

Revolutionaries For Democrats (November 2006)

Faith-Based Research (September 2006)

Anyone But Bush? (October 2004)

No Child Left Behind (September 2004)

Independence Day Sale (July 2004)

Campaign Financing (December 2003)

Operation Iraqi Freedom (March 2003)

It's the Issues, Stupid (February 2000)


Internal Resources

The Rape of Iraq

Patterns which Connect

America the 'beautiful'


About the Author

Jan Baughman on Swans (with bio).



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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published July 2, 2007