Listing the Polar Bear: The Interplay of Science and Policy

Monday, 17 February 2014
Grand Ballroom D North (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Lynn Scarlett , U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC
In 2008, the US Department of the Interior listed the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the first such listing in which significant threats to the species were linked to climate change. The decision required information drawing from global circulation modeling of projected sea ice conditions over 100 years, bear biology, and linkages between physical and biological scientists in a context of limited data, all of which present significant uncertainties. Yet the law requires decisions within a specific timeframe, applying legal terms such as "foreseeable future" and "reasonably likely to occur." Decision makers and scientists engaged in ongoing dialogue across 'boundaries' to frame questions that resulted in additional scientific analysis designed to reduce uncertainties and inform the final decision.