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Alaska Wants to Buy a Few Scientists

As everyone knows by now, the administration has moved to give Endangered Species Act protection to the polar bear—sort of. The bear goes on the list, but there a big footnote that says that energy development can proceed unhindered. Interior Secretary Kempthorne proclaimed that the Endangered Species Act must not be used to combat global warming.

Various forces, including the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, pledged to contest the listing in court. To have any hope of success, they'll need some tame scientists on their side. Read on.

There were reports around the time the latest report came out from the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that prior to the release of the report the American Enterprise Institute, which is supported by Exxon Mobil, was offering $10,000 to any scientist who would dispute the panel's findings. There were not many takers, it appears.

Now, the state of Alaska is trying a similar ploy. The legislature recently appropriated $2 million to be spent on scientists, if they can find any, who will argue that giving polar bears protection under the Endangered Species Act is be both unwise and unnecessary. As Tom Kizzia wrote in the Anchorage Daily News, "The state Legislature is looking to hire a few good polar bear scientists. The conclusions have already been agreed upon—researchers just have to fill in the science part."

This matter differs from your run-of-the-mill endangered species foofaraw in that the culprit is not clearcutting nor pollution nor dam building nor overhunting but climate change, which is making life increasingly difficult for the bears.

It's hard to see how this is going to have much effect on the eventual outcome of the polar bear saga, but it does seem to indicate that our northernmost state's lawmakers are willing to squander a fair piece of change on a frivolous pursuit of a lousy idea. The governor, Sarah Palin, has until May 26 to approve or veto the appropriation.