- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2006

Uh-oh, we’re doomed: Global warming is out of control and the planet is melting. How do we know this? Polar bears are eating each other, Siberian dinosaur bones are rotting and marmots are wakeful.

The press has staged a feeding frenzy of its own regarding a report by Steven Amstrup, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska that links “longer ice-free seasons” with a compromised polar bear food supply.

With fewer ringed seals to dine upon, a few bears have ended up as dinner themselves. In his airborne surveillance of northern Alaska two years ago, Mr. Amstrup spotted the gory evidence of three such incidents in a single season.

“There was cause for some concern that environmental changes was causing the bears to behave this way, because this is rare. Very rare. We couldn’t find anything comparable in 60 years worth of related data,” Mr. Amstrup said Thursday.

Though his findings were published almost two months ago, print and broadcast news organizations fell hungrily on the research. Mr. Amstrup has done 20 TV and radio interviews in the past 48 hours alone, with his report heralded as “global warming turns bears into cannibals” in some 150 print and broadcast reports. “George Bush kills Polar Bears,” read a waggish account in the National Review.

“It’s not a bad thing that the public is concerned, but I would prefer people be informed without the hyperbole associated with the general press,” Mr. Amstrup said.

“Anything with references to ‘global climate change’ inspires lots of opinions without reference to science. And lots of rhetoric. I wish politicians and press would refer more to the science.”

That said, he added that he is nevertheless disquieted by the findings, and believes they warrant more study.

The public heeds global warming scare fare, thanks in part to “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s global warming docudrama currently in theaters. The topic is hot with researchers as well. In June alone, Duke University reported that poison ivy is now itchier thanks to global warming, while the United Nations insisted that the world’s deserts are suffering because of the phenomenon.

Not to be outdone, Stanford University reported that marmots were waking up from their winter hibernation three weeks earlier than usual, spurred by — yes — global warming.

University of Florida and University of Alaska ecologists, in the meantime, reported Thursday that the frozen soil in northeastern Siberia is thawing, thus exposing ancient roots and bones that might one day release “significant and previously unaccounted for amounts of carbon,” according to their report.

Though the release would take place over a century, a Reuters news agency account framed the findings with alarm, noting the softening soil has “the potential to unleash billions of tons of carbon and accelerate global warming.”

And in Australia, there’s a heated debate. Graeme Pearman, a former government scientist, Thursday called on the country to declare global warming a “national security issue,” accusing officials of “failing to prepare for potential catastrophes.”

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