Backdoor Kyoto — The Next Chapter

polar bears swimming

The march of the watermelons towards control of US policy continues apace:

Polar bears will now be listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

But in announcing the listing, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said the decision should not be “misused” to regulate global climate change.

“Listing the polar bear as threatened can reduce avoidable losses of polar bears. But it should not open the door to use of the Endangered Species Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, power plants, and other sources,” said Kempthorne.

“That would be a wholly inappropriate use of the ESA law. The ESA is not the right tool to set U.S. climate policy.”

It is certainly an inappropriate tool for shaping such policy. And it just as certainly the tool that will be used quite effectively to do so. Like I wrote over a year ago, this is nothing more than a backdoor way of implementing Kyoto in the US.

If the polar bear were listed as a threatened species, all federal agencies would have to ensure that anything they authorize that might affect polar bears will not jeopardize their survival or the sea ice where they live. That could include oil and gas exploration, commercial shipping or even releases of toxic contaminants or climate-affecting pollution.

Environmentalists hope that invoking the Endangered Species Act protections might eventually lead the government to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other heat-trapping “greenhouse” gases blamed for warming the atmosphere.

“The Interior Department has pretty much explicitly said that they don’t think they have the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emission, but we know that the Endangered Species Act goes well beyond these walls, that it’s taken into account by other agencies,” said Kert Davies, research director for Greenpeace.

Since the above was written, the Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA does have the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but more importantly, under the ESA the government is required to evaluate any project that may have an impact on endangered species. Normally this would be limited to such species within the geographical span of the proposed project, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Greenpeace, et al., will attempt to draw a direct connection between whichever new project they are challenging and polar bears using the threat of increased greenhouse gas emissions.

The coup de grace, of course, will be when all private industry and behavior is brought with in the realm of the EPA’s regulation authority (my emphasis):

As Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne noted, the 1973 Endangered Species Act is “perhaps the least flexible law Congress has ever enacted.” In 2005, green litigants took advantage of this rigidity, suing the government to force it to label the polar bear at risk for extinction. Since the 1980s, the sea ice that the bears use to hunt and breed has been receding. Although the population has increased from a low of 12,000 in the 1960s to roughly 25,000 today – perhaps a record high – computer projections anticipate that Arctic pack ice will continue to melt over the next half-century. This could, maybe, someday, lead to population declines.

The lawsuits were hardly motivated by concern for polar bear welfare. Instead, environmentalists asserted that the ice is thinning because of human-induced global warming. A formal endangered listing is one more arrow in their legal quiver as they try to run U.S. climate policy through the judiciary.

They’ll argue that emissions from power plants, refineries, automobiles – anything that produces carbon – would contribute to warming, thus contributing to habitat destruction, and thus should be restricted by the Endangered Species Act. This logic could be used to rewrite existing environmental policy to accommodate greenhouse gasses, purposes for which they were never intended but with economy-wide repercussions.

Is there any doubt that granting full regulatory control over all productive activities is the ultimate goal of these lawsuits? I’m sure that some in the movement are motivated entirely by their heart-felt concern for the welfare of animals and the environment. But the vast majority of these environmental activists are driven by the desire to bring capitalist forces to heel, towards which end their totalitarian instincts guide them. Passage of the ESA in 1973 was the first step in that cause. The combined forces of the AGW movement with this latest court victory may be all that’s needed to achieve their goal.

See also: McQ, who has more on the listing of polar bears as a threatened species.

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5 Responses to “Backdoor Kyoto — The Next Chapter”

  1. on 15 May 2008 at 3:52 pm PogueMahone

    That’s a pretty cool photo.
    But if you’re trying to convince folk that the polar bear should be disregarded to make way for vicious capitalism, then I suggest that you use a more foreboding image of the giant killer. Wait… not that photo… this one.
    But I think you’re missing the big picture here.
    There is money to be made in this whole save-the-world thingie. Think of it that way and it might ease your worry. Imagine the industry that will evolve. There are already plenty of entrepreneurs making lots of money in eco-consulting.
    Why just today, I was called upon by the (government entity to remain confidential) to save a hive of bees that had made their home in one of the buildings at their distribution center. The bees had found a crack in the brick column and no doubt made their home in the void. I told them there were two ways we could do this.
    1) We could gas them and seal up the crack and I would charge roughly around $400. Or,
    2) We could remove the brick piece by piece and save the hive and I would charge around $2400. It’s a lot of work, you understand.
    Now they, the government entity to remain confidential (we’ll just call them… “shavewater”), had a public relation question to deal with. Shavewater determined that the bad press that might come to light for killing bees – that many of you already know are dwindling in numbers – would cost them more than the expense of having me remove the bees alive. After all, it’s not their money right.
    So… in short… $$cha-ching$$
    The funny part is, that the amount of bees that I will retrieve from the cavity would cost me roughly around $80 if I were to buy them from another beekeeper. Despite the dwindling numbers, bees are a renewable resource. Beekeepers just need the market to provide for the expense of raising more bees.
    So Shavewater could just give me $400 for the destruction of the hive in their column, + $80 for another hive, saving themselves $1920.
    But that’s not what they’re buying, right?
    So I think you’re missing the opportunity here. In that if you were to looouwdkn. Damn dog. Sorry, my dog hit my keyboard as I was typing this.
    Go away Dog. Don’t you know I’m trying to save the world?

  2. on 19 May 2008 at 7:35 am MichaelW

    Heh.  Obviously, judging from your pics, some polar bears are worth saving more than others.

    Glad to see you’re taking advantage of the green trend like a good running dog capitalist oppressor.


  3. on 20 May 2008 at 8:49 am Joshua Foust

    You know, “backdoor Kyoto” sounds kind of dirty.

  4. on 20 May 2008 at 8:59 am MichaelW

    And yet, still very few hits. Not dirty enough I guess ;)

  5. on 20 May 2008 at 9:46 am ChrisB

    as soon as I saw the comment preview of josh saying “you know, “backdoor…” I knew where this was going.

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