NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 18, 2008

To some extent, how one views the loss of Arctic summer sea ice depends on how you feel about polar bears, says Ignatius G. Rigor, who last year authored a NASA-led study on sea-ice decline.  This is a big loss of habitat for the animals and for local subsistence hunters, this is a retreat or a loss of the surface that they hunt on.

But there's good news, too.  The benefits of warming to consumers may be substantial, says the Weekly Standard:

  • The Inuit might find better work in the oil and gas sector, as high energy prices and melting ice make the Arctic an increasingly attractive area for exploration.
  • An ambitious U.S. firm, Arctic Oil and Gas, estimate there to be 400 billion barrels of oil beneath the Arctic seabed.
  • A Denver-based entrepreneur purchased the Canadian port of Churchill on the Hudson Bay for just $7 in 1997, hoping that he might cash in to the tune of as much as $100 million a year once the Northwest Passage becomes a viable shipping lane.

Polar bears, on the other hand, are expected to see few benefits, even if the threat they face from warming is a matter of dispute, says the Standard.  However, the notion of threatened polar bear populations was recently challenged.  A series of complex and "erroneous assumptions" undergird much of the research showing polar bears at risk, according to a recent article in the journal Interfaces by J. Scott Armstrong, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.  He and his co-authors offer compelling evidence that the animals have survived far warmer conditions in the past.

Source: Michael Goldfarb, "The Polar Bears Are All Right, " Weekly Standard, April 14, 2008.

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