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Greenpeace warns Alaska on polar bears -

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ELEANOR HALL: Greenpeace is warning today that a battle between oil companies and polar bears is
brewing in Alaska and it is vowing to intervene.

The state of Alaska has filed a lawsuit against the US Government, which in May listed polar bears
as an endangered species because of the effect climate change is having on their habitat.

But the state of Alaska, which is heavily reliant on oil and gas revenues, is disputing that
science and says the Federal Government did not adequately consider the adverse effect of the
listing on Alaska's industries.

Greenpeace though, says the Alaskan Government's court action is based on junk science and driven
by oil interests.

Tanya Nolan has our report.

TANYA NOLAN: It was an announcement environment campaigners claimed as a victory.

DIRK KEMPTHORNE: Today's decision is based on three findings. First, sea ice is vital to polar
bears' survival. Second, the polar bears' sea ice habitat has dramatically melted in recent
decades. Third, computer models suggest sea ice is likely to further recede in the future.

Because polar bears are vulnerable to this loss of habitat, they are, in my judgement, likely to
become endangered in the foreseeable future. In this case, 45 years.

TANYA NOLAN: On May the 16th US Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said with predictions that
two-thirds of the world's polar bears could be extinct by 2050 if Arctic sea ice continues to melt
at current rates; he was compelled under the US Endangered Species Act to list the polar bear as
threatened.

But the news was not welcomed in the state of Alaska - home to many of the world's polar bears and
25 per cent of America's oil stocks. Alaska's Governor Sarah Palin was quick to raise the spectre
of legal action and now she's come good with that threat.

In its case filed with the US District Court, the state of Alaska is challenging the science behind
the decision to list the polar bear as threatened. The Governor says the decision was not based on
the best scientific and commercial data available; and says it failed to adequately consider the
bears' survival through prior warming periods.

In a statement she goes on to say the Wildlife Service failed to adequately consider existing
regulations and conservation efforts that have resulted in a sustainable worldwide polar bear
population that has more than doubled in number over the last 40 years to more than 20,000 bears.

Melanie Duchin, a climate change campaigner with Greenpeace in Alaska, says the case has no merit.

MELANIE DUCHIN: What the State of Alaska is going is bring in junk science that is funded by the
likes of Exxon Mobil and using that to call into question the Government's decision to protect the
polar bears.

TANYA NOLAN: Greenpeace is joining forces with other environmental groups to challenge the legal
case and is confident of getting it dismissed.

Melanie Duchin says with 85 per cent of the state's economy reliant on oil and gas revenue, it is
the interests of industry that are being protected not those of the polar bear.

MELANIE DUCHIN: The Palin administration and the Bush administration as well, is all about paving
the way for the oil industry in Alaska to line its pockets with as much money as possible and that
is what this lawsuit is about.

It's about running roughshod over the environment, not caring about global warming and basically
putting the stamp of approval on polar bears going extinct.

TANYA NOLAN: And she says Greenpeace's argument will be based on what she describes as irrefutable
science.

MELANIE DUCHIN: I could drive a truck into the room with the amount of science that shows that
global warming is causing sea ice to melt and the sea ice is the polar bears' habitat. They cannot
live without it and if we are to save the polar bear, we have to protect the sea ice and that means
stopping global warming.

TANYA NOLAN: Alaska maintains that the polar bear population has actually doubled to as many as
25,000 over the last 40 years as a result of current regulations and conservation programs in the
state and internationally. Do you agree with those figures?

MELANIE DUCHIN: Well those figures are true but they are taken out of context. After sport hunting
of polar bears was banned, yes their population did increase. And here in Alaska we have two
populations of polar bears and one of them, they are Beaufort Sea population, has already seen a
reduction, I believe it is 20 or 27 per cent just in the past ten years or so.

And this population of polar bears in the Beaufort Sea, we are seeing them drown in unprecedented
numbers. They are cannibalising each other and basically this population of bears is on the
decline; so the state of Alaska is only using one snapshot of data that is not current.

TANYA NOLAN: The Governor of Alaska says the state takes seriously its obligation to manage and
conserve all its wildlife and natural resources, but points out it's also responsible for the
welfare of its citizens who are concerned that the unwarranted listing of the polar bear as a
threatened species will have a significant adverse impact on the state by deterring, not just oil
and gas activity but also fishing, transportation and tourism.

It's unclear what the full impact the threatened species listing will have on these activities, but
when the Secretary of the Interior made the announcement he also stated that administrative
guidance will be provided; along with a rule that defines the scope of impact of the decision in
order to limit the unintended harm to the society and the economy of the United States.

Neither the Alaskan Governor nor the Alaskan Oil and Gas Association were available for an
interview.

ELEANOR HALL: Tanya Nolan with that report.