Year 2, Month 8, Day 16: If This Ends Differently, I Will Be Extremely Surprised. Extremely.

The July 31 New York Times reports on Charles Monnet, the scientist who (along with Jeffrey Gleason) wrote the “dead-polar-bear” report that stirred things up among the Bushies. He’s been suspended on “integrity” issues, with the inquiry focusing on the very same report. Gee. Why does this not smell legit?

The federal government has suspended a wildlife biologist whose sightings of dead polar bears in Arctic waters became a rallying point for campaigners seeking to blunt the impact of global warming.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement notified the biologist, Charles Monnett, on July 18 that he had been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation into “integrity issues,” according to a copy of a letter posted online by the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Documents posted by the group indicate that the inquiry centers on a 2006 report that Dr. Monnett co-wrote on deaths among polar bears swimming in the Beaufort Sea.

Come on. What’s more likely? A grossly corrupt scientist — or a bureaucracy that doesn’t know what the fuck it’s doing and is staffed with stupid vengeful people? Maybe I’m an idealist about scientists, but I’ve seen a lot more vicious bureaucrats than I have corrupt research scientists. Sent July 31:

When government investigates scientists, the results are often comical at best and Kafkaesque at worst. Whereas the mechanisms of law and administration are readily susceptible to egregious misuse, those of scientific research are far harder to corrupt. The allegations of misconduct against Dr. Charles Monnet are likely to prove a singular example of this fact. Dr. Monnet, whose work was terribly inconvenient for the previous administration’s corporate sponsors, is probably the victim of a toxic combination: a scientifically ignorant bureaucrat with a grudge. We’ve heard this story before; it’s “climategate” — with bears. Although repeated investigations totally demolished the East Anglia non-scandal, the lies about it continue to spread. Similarly, we can expect eventual inquiry to vindicate Monnet and Gleason’s findings while their names nevertheless endure continued calumnies from the ignorant and vengeful. All of us are the losers thereby, for the world needs good scientists more than bad bureaucrats.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 7, Day 17: And In The Left Corner, In Yellow Trunks…

The L.A. Times reports on the recent (July 1) ruling that the Polar Bear is going to be allowed to keep its status on the Endangered Species list.

A U.S. District Court on Thursday upheld a Bush-era decision that polar bears are a threatened species, despite challenges by the state of Alaska and others seeking to strip the bear of its protection.

Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to protect the bear because of the melting of the Arctic sea ice was well supported and that opponents failed to demonstrate that the listing was irrational.

“Plaintiffs’ challenges amount to nothing more than competing views about policy and science,” Judge Emmet Sullivan wrote.

Them pesky liberal judges.

Personally, I’d like to watch a polar bear and James Inhofe battle it out.

Sent July 1:

As one of the most recognizable of the world’s charismatic megafauna, the polar bear’s become a symbol of wildlife endangered by climate change. While Judge Sullivan’s ruling on the threatened Arctic predator’s status is welcome news, we need to recognize that it’s not just the big, furry and picturesque that need our protection. All over the planet, creatures great and small are coming under attack from a faceless enemy — but the ultimate victims are not the animals and plants themselves, but the living networks of interdependency of which they are a part. The world’s ecosystems are in grave danger; as they lose their resilience, we’ll see ever-greater numbers of inarticulate climate refugees searching for new habitats. It’s unfortunate that there is no category for Endangered Environments, for it’s not just the polar bear, but its entire support system, that is under assault from the greenhouse effect and its consequences.

Warren Senders

Month 12, Day 23: Don’t Tell Me No One Ever Died Of Seasickness! The Hope of Dying Is The Only Thing That’s Keeping Me Alive!

The Baltimore Sun notes that there is a tiny ray of hope poking through the gloom.

The best news to be found on the climate change front this month was a report that the polar bear, a threatened species that has come to symbolize the dangers of global warming, may yet be saved — if greenhouse emissions are reduced over the next two decades.

Unfortunately, that’s a big “if.” International climate talks that ended early this month in Cancun produced no legally binding agreement. They weren’t expected to — nor is the stalemate expected to break in the near future. Negotiators are keeping expectations low for next year’s United Nations-sponsored conference in South Africa.

Good news is now buried so deeply in the queue of nested conditionals that it requires special training to be able to spot it. Anyway, today’s was a pretty generic “Conservatives are idiots” approach, notable only for some clever wordplay in the last three sentences. Is it noticeable?

There is indeed cause for optimism on climate change. Eventually all but the most ideologically hidebound will recognize the reality of global heating and the importance of action. Is the time required for an intellectual turnaround more time than we’ve got? Climatic “tipping points” are moving past us inexorably; nature’s laws will doom the foolish and the wise alike. Most conservatives are inextricably attached to the notion that climate change does not exist (because it’s been discussed by scientists, who are presumably liberals) or cannot exist (because it’s not in the Bible). A few acknowledge the problem, and assert that our technology (along with the magic of market capitalism) will save us. But technological wizardry won’t pull our climatic chestnuts out of the tropospheric fire unless we start spending money on developing that technology. The only thing that’s absolutely certain is that the costs of inaction dwarf those of action.

Warren Senders