Sunday, May 11, 2008


GEOFFREY LEAN, INDEPENDENT, UK It's a classic stand-off between one of the world's best loved animals and one of its most unpopular leaders, between the planet's largest bear and its most powerful man. And it comes to a head this week.

On Thursday, by order of a federal judge, George W Bush must stop stalling on whether to designate the polar bear as a species endangered by global warming. The designation could have huge consequences for his climate-change policies; his administration would, by law, have to avoid doing anything that would "jeopardise the continued existence" of the mammal whose habitat is melting away.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the administration has sought to avoid the decision. It has delayed it for months, and was seeking to put it off for months more. . .

Polar bears depend on the sea ice for hunting, mating and moving around. Last summer, 200,000 square miles of ice – more than twice the size of Britain – melted for the first time, shrinking the frozen sea to an extent that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted would not occur until 2050. More and more scientists believe the Arctic could be ice-free in summer in little more than 20 years.