George F. Will: The new wards of the government
"A preventive war worked out so well in Iraq that Washington last week launched another. The new preventive war -- the government responding forcefully against a postulated future threat -- has been declared on behalf of polar bears, the first species whose supposed jeopardy has been ascribed to global warming.
But Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne says the "threatened" label is mandatory because sea ice has been melting and computer models postulate future melting caused by human activity. So, now that human activity is assumed to be the primary cause, or even a measurable cause, of warming, the decision to classify the bears as threatened has become a mighty lever.
Now that polar bears are wards of the government, and now that it is a legal doctrine that humans are responsible for global warming, the Endangered Species Act has acquired unlimited application. Anything that can be said to increase global warming can -- must -- be said to threaten bears already designated as threatened.
Want to build a power plant in Arizona? A building in Florida? Do you want to drive an SUV? Or leave your cellphone charger plugged in overnight? Some judge might construe federal policy as proscribing these activities. Kempthorne says such uses of the act, unintended by those who wrote it in 1973, would be "wholly inappropriate." But in 1973, climate Cassandras were saying that "the world's climatologists are agreed" that we must "prepare for the next ice age" (Science Digest, February 1973). And no authors of the Constitution or the 14th Amendment intended to create a "fundamental" right to abortion, but there it is."
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George F. Will: March of the Polar Bears
(The Washington Post 5/22)
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