In a highly anticipated decision, the Interior Department on Wednesday declared the polar bear "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act because of shrinking Arctic ice due to global warming. Two analysts consider the impact of the decision.
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Finally tonight, the government officially declared today polar bears are a threatened species, but the debate is hardly over about how to protect them. Jeffrey Brown has our Science Unit story.
Long a symbol of the rich life of the Arctic, the polar bear has also come to represent the threat of global warming. Today, it became the first animal to be listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act because of the loss of its habitat due to climate change.
The U.S. Geological Survey predicts that two-thirds of the 20,000 to 25,000 polar bear population today could be lost within 50 years, as temperatures rise and sea ice disappears. Polar bears depend on sea ice for hunting seals, their primary food.
After a federal court gave the Bush administration a deadline to reach a long-delayed decision on the matter, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne made today's announcement.
DIRK KEMPTHORNE, U.S. Interior Secretary:
Computer modeling projects significant population decline by the year 2050. This, in my judgment, makes the polar bear a threatened species, one likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.
But the decision also allows continued production of oil and other energy in the Arctic region.