Friday, May 16, 2008

Polar Bears...

As I'm sure you've heard by now, a few days ago our federal government decided to list polar bears as an endangered species. This decision was widely lauded by environmentalists as the beginning of the effort to “save the polar bear from extinction”.

What are they talking about? The current polar bear population is at its peak in recorded history, with about 25,000 animals in the wild. The population has been continuously increasing for at least 15 years, and probably more. So why, suddenly, does the polar bear need protection?

Here's the scoop. First, the polar bear itself isn't the real issue, despite all the rhetoric you read and hear. The actual issue is that the environmentalist lobby desperately needs a wedge issue if they're to stop any further development in Alaska. They see development of Alaska's oil and mineral resources as evil, and they want a way to stop it. What better than the polar bear? The only place it lives in the U.S. is Alaska.

But then there's the inconvenient fact that the polar bear is thriving, with large and healthy populations. How in the world do you get the government to list such a species as “endangered”? Well, you wave your magic wand and produce some polar bear population forecasts that show disastrous population declines. Yup, you read that right: the polar bear endangered species listing is based entirely on population forecasts.

But wait, there's even more. Well before the decision was made, numerous scientists thoroughly demolished that polar bear population forecast. They pointed out its numerous flaws, mistaken assumptions, and obviously incorrect calculations. Put bluntly, that forecast is bogus and appears to be deliberately manipulated to produce the outcome that environmentalists wanted and needed. Had the assumptions and calculations in that forecast been used on the polar bear data from ten years ago, it would have predicted that today the polar bear would be nearly extinct. This is called “back-testing” and is a standard way to test a forecast model. Basically you're just testing to see if a model would have correctly predicted what's happening today, using old data – and this model spectacularly fails that test. Oops!

But the government bureaucracy that makes the endangered species decisions is itself larded with environmentalist wackos, and they decided to completely ignore the objections to the bogus forecast. Instead, they treated it as if it were proven fact – the only “fact” supporting the notion of listing the polar bears as endangered.

So now they've got their wedge issue, and now there's another (large) obstacle to exploiting Alaskan oil reserves.

We live in a loony bin, and the madmen are running the place...