Wednesday ( September 12, 2012), the Anchorage Daily News ran a story titled Environmental group sues to protect ice seals. The Center for Biological Diversity is suing the US Government because they have not listed the Ring Seal as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
I know nearly nothing about the Ring Seal…but I’m confident of one thing…the lawsuit will have absolutely no impact on the seals longevity. Two reasons, science and China.
My experience has taught me that Environmental groups frequently make wild claims. There are many many individual environmental groups. Each has it’s own agenda. It is difficult to build anything without offending one or more of the groups and too many use the courts to air their complaints. They sue to stop roads, mines, bridges, and oil drilling. They sued San Antonio to reduce water use. Sometimes the lawsuits have merit, but too many are a giant waste of time. An unnecessary expense for both the environmental group and the government.
The third paragraph of the article emphasizes my point.
“Without steep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the ice seals don’t stand a chance in the long term,” said attorney Rebecca Noblin in the announcement of the lawsuit. “The plight of Arctic species like these seals demands immediate action to break our fossil fuel addiction.”
They have assumed that greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for the seals plight. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the ice is melting for a whole host of reasons (natural climate variation or perhaps air pollution or soot), not just the one they have identified. Maybe the seal can survive with much less ice than they think it can.
Let’s set the science aside and do a little simple environmental arithmetic. We’ll start by assuming carbon emissions are impacting global climate and that coal use is the biggest driver of that emission total. Let’s look at some coal use data
courtesy of BP.
Coal Use By Country (millions of tons oil equiv.)
Country 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2011 %of Total
USA 309 389 483 569 526 502 13.5%
China 163 305 507 710 1,676 1,839 49.4%
Germany 152 140 130 85 77 78 2.1%
UK 96 71 65 37 37 31 0.8%
Russia n/a n/a 181 105 90 91 2.4%
India 38 57 96 144 271 296 7.9%
Japan 60 58 76 99 123 117 3.2%
Total 1,499 1,804 2,207 2,372 3,520 3,724 100%
Yep we in the good ole USA use lots of coal, 13.5% of the total. Coal use in the world has increased by 2225 million tons of oil equiv. since 1970 and China is responsible for 75% of that total. So far in 2012, the USA total is down about 17% below 2011 levels…and China and India continue to grow rapidly.
The Endangered Species Act will always only impact the USA. The USA is no longer the big player in the coal/carbon dioxide game, China is. So why sue the USA? If the Center for Biological Diversity is right about the science (which is not a given), then they need to get China to change their ways or they will fail.
The lawsuit…from the seals point of view…is a waste of time.